ONLINE EXCLUSIVE OPINION BY ANNELISE ESCHER
The current refugee crisis in the world presents two large sets of questions for discussion. The first is ethical: How large a role should America play in the resettlement process? Should the possibility of one potential terrorist prevent all refugees from relocating? Do Americans deserve peace of mind more than Syrian refugees deserve safety?
Perhaps more pertinent, however, is a practical question: will barring refugees prevent terrorism? Statistically and logically, the answer is a resounding “no.”
It should first be remembered that refugees flee their homes, businesses, and communities to escape violence and persecution for racial, political, religious, or social reasons, often with little time to plan or pack. Refugees do not become refugees casually, or to benefit from a political status.
Refugee status is most often granted through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who also refers refugees for resettlement in a third country. Less than one percent of all refugees worldwide- those deemed most at risk- are referred to one of 29 nations worldwide with resettlement programs.
Of this one percent a majority of cases are sent to the US Resettlement Program for consideration, where candidates undergo an interview in their country of asylum, multiple medical evaluations, and background checks performed by the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, Defense Department, National Counterterrorism Center, and FBI including biographic and biometric information. Last year, less than 2,000 Syrian refugees entered the US through this process, which on average takes at least 18 months.
Frankly speaking, the refugee process is an extremely inefficient way for a terrorist to enter the US.
Refugee resettlement is the most stringent security process for US entrance. There are an estimated nine million Syrian refugees. President Obama is proposing as a nation welcome 10,000. While there are many arguments to be made in the case of accepting or not accepting refugees, the process itself should not be used as an excuse in our national dialogue.
The websites for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the US Refugee Admission Program, and the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants give information about the process of refugee status, being accepted by the US, and an example of the resettlement process here in Des Moines, respectively.