“Today I participated in a briefing with federal officials regarding the policies and protocols in place to screen all refugees – including Syrian refugees – seeking to resettle in the United States. The conference call was a chance for governors to speak with officials from the White House and the departments of Homeland Security, State, and Health and Human Services.
“Setting aside some hateful and divisive comments from certain corners, governors have a legitimate right and need to assure their citizens are safe. It’s the federal government’s role to process applications for refugee status, and up to the federal government to decide who is let into the country. The federal government then works with federally-approved organizations, like U.S. Conference of Bishops, to identify suitable communities where they can be resettled.
“Today’s briefing was a chance for governors to hear directly from those responsible for the processing of refugees and the security of our nation. The federal government reaffirmed that refugees go through the highest level of security screening of any category of traveler to the United States. This multi-layered screening process involves the use of biographic and biometric information, such as background checks and fingerprints, which are screened against multiple law enforcement and counterterrorism databases. Refugee screening experts perform multiple in-person interviews, and each screening is again reviewed by a supervisor.
“Refugee candidates also undergo a medical screening. And because of the particular conditions regarding the Syrian crisis, there are additional security screens in place for Syrian refugees. The U.S. State Department is continually monitoring the process to ensure we have the strongest possible safeguards in place to provide refuge to those who need it while keeping out those who would seek to harm us.
“Federal officials also made it clear that there is a lot of misinformation about the type of people who are fleeing from persecution. The U.S. State Department prioritizes the highest-risk and most-vulnerable groups of people – children, the elderly, and victims of torture or abuse. About half of all Syrian refugees are children.
“We are fortunate that our nation’s location and borders do not put us in the same situation we see in Europe, where boats and rafts full of refugees wash ashore with a significantly diminished ability to track who is arriving or departing.
“The federal government feels confident that we have in place robust and thorough security protocols and practices that allow us to provide a safe harbor to those fleeing unfathomable types of brutality and violence while also keeping us safe.”