Letter: U.S. refugees are meticulously vetted and safe

To the Editor:

Trump and Ryan are wrong to say we know “nothing about refugees coming to the U.S.”

First of all, most refugees want to return home when conditions permit. UNHCR accepts only 1% of those who want to resettle elsewhere. If U.S. applicants, then Homeland Security verifies identities, fingerprints, iris-scans, and background checks for criminal and political activity, which must be confirmed by multiple databases: CIA, FBI, Department of Defense, and intelligence agencies of other nations. Also social media.

The FBI administers the Terrorist Screening Center with data from up-to-date domestic and foreign agencies. That info is cross-checked against Western intelligence, and particularly strong apparatuses in Turkey and Jordan — most likely to receive refugees from Syria. The National Counterterrorism Center performs a “recurrent vetting” process, noting any derogatory information identified after the initial checkup, until their travel to the U.S.

“Syria Enhanced Review” is an additional security clearance for applicants from that country. A highly trained U.S. Customs and Immigration officer flies overseas for a face-to-face interview/interrogation. The applicant and any accompanying family member over 14 are questioned to evaluate credibility and consistency with country conditions. There are multiple interviews and fact-checking to detect fraudulent applications.

Finally, the demographics: 50% are children, a quarter are over 60, half of the remaining 25% are women. The State Department estimates that 2% are men of fighting age. Here relevant data comes from the Defense Department from our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan — documenting fighters, attempted infiltrators. Today 5,000 special forces in Syria and Iraq work closely with non-state actors to fight against ISIS. This generates current military records.

The Syrian war created the worst refugee crisis since World War II, but no U.S. refugee has been convicted of a crime. Unlike headlined EU “bad guys,” or second-generation American immigrants, U.S. refugees are rigorously vetted.

Ann Johnson-Lundberg