Everyone is losing their minds over Syrian Refugees being taken in by the United States. The right-wing propaganda machine will have you believing we are opening our doors to ISIS militants hell-bent on killing us all. That’s simply not the truth and people need to take a moment to stop, breathe, and learn the facts.

Any refugee seeking resettlement in the United States has to go through a rigorous screening process and Syrian Refugees are scrutinized even more closely. This isn’t something that just happens very quickly or overnight. The 10,000 Syrian Refugees being allowed into the United States have already undergone this process and have passed the qualifications to be allowed to resettle here. Here is what the process actually looks like…

1. The refugee has to identify themselves to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The UNHCR then collects identifying documents from the person (name, date of birth, address, place of birth, etc.). For Syrians and other Middle Eastern refugees, they also complete iris scans. The person is then interviewed by the UNHCR, confirming refugee status and the person’s need for resettlement. The person’s initial information is checked again. At this point, only strong candidates for resettlement are able to move forward. This equates to less than 1% of the global refugee population.

2. Applicant information is received by a federally funded Resettlement Support Center (RSC). This center collects identifying documents, creates a file with the applicant’s information, and compiles the refugee’s information to complete biographic security checks.

3. Biographic security checks are completed by multiple agencies: National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and State Department. This screening will look to determine if the person is a security risk, any connections to known bad “actors”, and outstanding warrants along with immigration or criminal violations. For Syrian Refugees, at this point in the process, the Department of Homeland Security will conduct an enhanced review, which may be referred to USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate.




4. Interviews are completed by USCIS Officers. Fingerprints are collected and then submitted for an additional biometric check. If fingerprint results or any information leads to questions/suspicions, additional security checks on the information are conducted. The case may be placed on hold for additional research/investigation.

5. The applicant’s fingerprints are then taken by U.S. government employees. The fingerprints are now checked against the FBI’s database. They are also screened through the DHS database, which contains watch-list information and any previous immigration encounters (U.S. and overseas). Finally, the fingerprints are screened against the U.S. Department of Defense’s database, which includes fingerprints captured in Iraq and other locations. At this point, if there are any security concerns, the case is stopped and the person is no longer considered for resettlement.

6. The agencies involved now determine if a medical check is necessary based on their overall condition. Refugees may be given medical treatment for communicable diseases. If a refugee has a communicable diseases or other serious medical conditions, they will be denied for resettlement.

7. For those that are able to get past the steps above and to this point, a cultural orientation is done and the person is assigned to a domestic resettlement location. Here, the refugee completes classes for cultural orientation. A United States-based organization will then assess the person to determine the best resettlement location for them. Consideration is given to those who have family in the states already or for certain health issues (such as asthma).

Refugees who are accepted typically spend 18 to 24 months going through the resettlement process. Once they arrive in the United States, they have one year to apply for a green card. This will set off another set of security procedures that must be completed.

If you are a terrorist and hell-bent on getting into the United States, going through the refugee resettlement program would be the absolute worst way to go about it.

Photo by EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

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