News & Politics

State Department Doesn't Think We're Letting in Syrian Refugees Quickly Enough

Daily life in Moria camp, Myteline, Lesbos on March 17, 2016. (Photo by Guillaume Pinon/NurPhoto)

The State Department is unhappy with the pace that Syrian refugees are being admitted to the United States and wants to increase the new arrivals to 1500 a month.

To date, 1,300 Syrians have been resettled. But President Obama set a goal of taking in 10,000 Syrians by September and in order to meet that mark, the State Department wants to speed up the already inadequate vetting process.

The Hill:

“It’s clear that ISIS wants to, has planned on attempting to infiltrate refugee populations. This is a problem. If one person gets through who is planning a terrorist attack in our country, that’s a problem,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, who recently returned from a trip to the region, said Thursday.

“The administration — whether it’s Homeland Security or the FBI, cannot tell us that they can adequately screen people. There isn’t really a Syria to talk to on that end of the equation to vet people, so it is a problem,” Ryan told reporters.

The State Department says it has fallen behind schedule in meting Obama’s goal partly due to a lack of personnel available to interview refugees.

It is now doing a “surge operation” in Amman, Jordan, that is designed to process the rest of the Syrian refugees in as little as three months and leave them enough time to get to the U.S. before September.

The State Department has devoted more staff in Amman to focus on processing Syrian refugees, as well as hired new employees, which the department says it needed anyway.

“By putting more officers in one place we can conduct more interviews. Partly we have a backlog because we don’t have enough officers to interview people,” Larry Bartlett, the State Department’s director of the Office of Refugee Admissions, told The Hill in a recent interview.

“So part of it is a little bit of shifting. We’ve also done some new hiring, and it was hiring that was timely. Those were people we needed anyway but they came onboard in time for this surge operation,” said Bartlett. He did not say how many staff were added in Amman.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has prioritized sending more refugees to the U.S. than other countries, he said.

So far, about 9,500 Syrians have been interviewed in Amman since February 1, and 12,000 interviews should be completed by April 28, according to a State Department spokesperson.

Republican critics argue that speeding up the process to as little as three months will make it easier for terrorists to slip through.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), who co-authored a bill to pause and bolster the refugee screening process, called State’s surge operation “unsecure” and said Obama should shut it down immediately.

“This will inevitably put our nation and our citizens at risk for future terrorist attacks,” he said in a recent statement.

What’s the rush? Yes, we all feel sympathy for refugees stuck in those dirty camps. But to shortcut the vetting process is madness — especially since ISIS exported 400 terrorists to Europe with the refugee wave. This is something Europe will be paying for over the next decade. Why should we make the same mistake?

If it takes a little longer to vet the refugees, it’s time well spent. The process is already full of holes. We’re making it easier for ISIS to sneak their fighters into the U.S. and there’s no real reason for it.