Political News

Refugees must go through several screenings, but GOP wants more

Posted November 18, 2015 5:59 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2015 8:09 p.m. EST

— The House will vote Thursday on a bill aimed at boosting screening of Syrian and Iraqi refugees before they enter the United States. President Barack Obama, who wants to allow 10,000 more Syrians into the U.S. this year, has threatened to veto it.

Some details on the current screening process:

— Obama administration officials say current screening of Syrians is more rigorous than for any other set of travelers.

— The checks are conducted by multiple federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies and include an interview overseas, biometrics, fingerprinting and biographical investigations to determine if individuals meet the standards for refugee status or if they pose security risks. Syrians are subject to additional, classified controls.

— The Homeland Security Department makes the final decision on whether a refugee is accepted.

— The current acceptance rate for Syrians is around 50 percent. The other half includes denials and cases pending further investigation.

— Once accepted, the refugees must clear medical screenings, and they undergo cultural orientation.

— Before leaving Syria, the refugees go through another interagency security check for any information that might have come up since the process began. The entire process takes 18 to 24 months.

— Once they arrive in the U.S., additional security checks are made to ensure the refugee arriving is the same person screened and approved. Then, the resettlment process begins, and the refugee works with a nonprofit organization to find a home and a job and start a new life.

— Of the roughly 2,500 Syrians the U.S. has taken in since the civil war erupted in that country in the spring of 2011, about half are children. Only about 2 percent are single men of combat age. The overall pool is almost evenly split between males and females.

The House bill would:

— Institute a new requirement for the FBI to conduct a "thorough background investigation" of Syrians and Iraqis seeking entrance to the U.S. as refugees.

— Require the Homeland Security secretary, with the "unanimous concurrence" of the head of the FBI and of the Director of National Intelligence, to certify to congressional committees that the person does not pose a security threat.

— Require monthly reports to Congress by the Homeland Security secretary about how many certifications have been made.

— Require annual risk-based reviews by the inspector general of the Homeland Security Department of all certifications made, and a report to Congress.