By Phil McMullin
After the recent terrorist attacks around the world, many governments are debating whether they will accept the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are fleeing the civil war in Syria.
According to The New York Times, 1,854 Syrian refugees have been admitted into the United States since 2012.
President Barack Obama has increased the amount of legal statuses offered to Syrian refugees to 10,000 this year.
However, The New York Times reported that “at least 28 governors have said they oppose the entry of Syrian refugees into their states.”
Many fear that terrorists will pose as refugees and launch attacks once they have settled in a new country.
However, in the United States, the process of accepting Syrian refugees is so long and intense that it would be counterproductive for terrorists to utilize this method when plotting an attack.
Not only is the United States’ screening process thorough enough to accept refugees safely, it would benefit our enemy, ISIS, to reject them.
Countless news articles and opinion pieces discuss the brutal struggle refugees experience while leaving war-torn Syria. Those who are opposing the government accepting refugees, however, are most likely not doing so out of malice – but rather, fear.
During a WHO-TV forum in Iowa, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said, “We don’t know who they [Syrian refugees] are, we don’t know where they come from.”
This statement seems to imply that the United States is letting Syrian refugees into the country with little to no screening process.
Ben Carson, another Republican presidential candidate, made a similar statement on NBC News, saying he is “not all that anxious to bring in a bunch of refugees from Syria who would likely be infiltrated with jihadists.” He added, “There simply is not a way to vet these refugees.”
Carson is mistaken. The United States government, in fact, has an extensive process which they have and will continue to utilize while vetting refugees.
According to CNN reporter Laura Koran, refugees are referred to the United States by the United Nations High Commission, which sorts through applicants to see who qualifies for refugee status.
Koran continues, writing that once the application reaches the United States, the Resettlement Support Center then collects information about the applicant and begins a screening process “which includes an interview, a medical evaluation and an interagency security screening process aimed at ensuring the refugee does not pose a threat to the United States.”
Several U.S. intelligence agencies use “biographical and biometric information” to confirm the identities of the refugees.
It normally takes refugees 18 to 24 months to be processed, but since Syria is a specific security concern for the U.S., the process takes “significantly longer,” according to Koran.
According to Stephen H. Legomsky, Professor Emeritus at the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, “No competent terrorist would choose the U.S. refugee process as a preferred strategy for gaining entry into the U.S.”
The thorough screening process is supported by that fact that, according to The White House’s Twitter account, “zero Syrian refugees that have resettled in the U.S. have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges.”
While helping human beings desperately fleeing their countries in order to escape persecution and violence is the humanitarian thing to do, it also happens to be an effective war strategy, as well.
Aaron Zelin, an expert on Arab and Islamic politics and terrorism who works at The Washington
Institute, argues that if countries like the United States deny Syrian refugees, it will help ISIS.
Zelin writes that ISIS hopes to establish a land exclusively for Muslims, so it is bad for the Islamic State’s reputation if Muslims are fleeing that land by the hundreds of thousands.
ISIS is using news coverage of the mistreatment of refugees in non-Islamic countries to recruit more soldiers for their jihad.
In The Washington Post, counterterrorism expert Harleen Gambhir said that when ISIS attacks
European countries, they are hoping to create western “crusaders.” Quoting ISIS, he writes that Muslims will emigrate “to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the Crusader governments and citizens.”
The numerous terrorist attacks over the past months have horrified the world. It is an understandable reaction to want to shut Syrian refugees out. However, the United States government has proven that it can vet refugees successfully.
Most importantly, we are at war. Our enemy wants us to be afraid. ISIS is hoping we will give in to fear and turn hundreds of thousands back to their “caliphate.”
Will we let our enemy succeed?