In an effort to make good on a promise to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, President Obama’s State Department has accelerated the pace of background checks to three months, despite FBI Director James Comey’s warning that it’s nearly impossible to fully vet those Syrian’s in the much more rigorous 18-24 month period.
Nearly 1,000 Syrian refugees have already passed through the US Embassy in Jordan and resettled somewhere in America. According to the US Embassy refugee coordinator, Gina Kassem, the number of refugees could end up dwarfing the 10,000 target. “[The 10,000 target] is a floor, not a ceiling and it is possible to increase the number. While the resettlement process usually takes 18 to 24 months, under the surge operation this will be reduced to three months,” Kassem told the Associated Press.
Former Pentagon Press Secretary and current State Department spokesperson John Kirby batted down multiple media questions that the US government was not properly vetting all Syrian refugees coming to America.
“As we’ve said, refugees from Syria are given the highest scrutiny of any other type of refugee,” Kirby said. “In the main, it takes 18 to 24 months for an individual – and by the way, we have to look at these from an individual basis. We look at each person,” he continued. “It takes about a year-and-a-half to two years to work through that process.”
Despite the apparent contradictions and an avalanche of push back from the American taxpayer, the State Department assured the press that Obama’s goal of at least 10,000 would become a reality.
“We are still very committed to the goal of reaching 10,000 by the end of the [fiscal] year,” Kirby explained. “We are also equally committed to helping ensure the safety and security of the American people.”
But this hasn’t stopped the Republican Party from insisting more precautions must be put into place. House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) introduced the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015, which would purportedly keep Americans safe. “We have been informed by our intelligence community that individuals linked to terrorism in Syria have already attempted to enter our country through the refugee program, and just this month the FBI arrested two Iraqi refugees inside the United States with ISIS ties,” McCaul claimed.
In response to the San Bernardino terrorist attack, Republican Jason Chaffetz, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, ordered DHS officials to Capitol Hill to explain America’s complex visa application program. While the hearing was not widely publicized due to the holiday season, the testimony from DHS was startling. Chaffetz asked Michele Bond, DHS assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs: “Since 2001 the department has revoked approximately 122,000 visas for a variety of reasons including nearly 9,500 for suspected links to terrorism. Of the 122,000 revoked visas, how many of those people are still in the United States?”
Ms. Bond stunned the panel when she said: “I don’t know.” Chaffetz rhetorically asked again, “so you have no idea how many of those people are in the US?”
Turning his questioning to Alan Bersin, the former Director of Customs and Border Protection, Bersin explained, “Mr. Chairman (Chaffetz) I don’t have that information.” A clearly frustrated Chairman mocked the officials, “You don’t have a clue do you? These are people that the State Department, the State Department people who gave out the visas, thought about it, got more information and decided we better revoke those 9,500 that were tied to terrorism, and you don’t have a clue who they were do you?”
Another alarming revelation this month is the number of terror-related investigations that DHS has opened – 118 active investigations into Syrians who have overstayed their visas, with 11 arrests.
“Visa overstays are a long-standing challenge for immigration enforcement,” according to Marc Rosenblum, of the Migration Policy Institute.
“Overstay enforcement has never been a top priority, and completing a system to reliably identify and track over stayers remains years away.”
Nevertheless, the State Department continues its furious pace to resettle unvetted Syrians across America despite the potential for unintended consequences.