More than half of our nation’s governors, including Gov. Rick Scott, have said they oppose Syrian refugees coming to the United States. It was a quick response to the Paris terrorist attacks, and if a new House bill becomes law, there could be new hurdles for those refugees trying to enter our borders.
Rusten Hurd is an Orlando attorney with almost 20 years of experience practicing immigration law. In his opinion, there are flaws in our country’s immigration policy. But he said it’s not in the refugee program, but rather the visa program.
“There’s never been an issue with a refugee that has come here,” Hurd said. “Not one. We work with a lot of Syrians who are seeking asylum here in the United States.”
The White House said that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, more than 2,100 Syrian refugees have been accepted into our borders. None of them have been arrested or deported because of terrorist activity. And that’s why Hurd and his colleagues are concerned with the political movement to restrict Syrian refugees.
“Many of their family members have been killed by terrorists and they’re fleeing these war-torn countries,” Hurd said. “And they have been substantially vetted to ensure that they are safe individuals to come to the United States.”
Even though investigators in Paris have determined that not one of the attackers was from Syria or a refugee, Scott is speaking out against Syrians coming into the United States and questioning the White House about the vetting process.
“I said, 'Tell me how your vetting is better than France’s, because I assume they don’t want ... somebody to pose as a refugee and come in.' They said, 'Well it’s just better,” Scott said. “Well, that made me feel good.”
Hurd said he understands the concern for the safety and security of the United States but said Syrian refugees fleeing by boat and walking miles through countryside are not the terrorists.
“They’re the ones fleeing terrorists,” he said.
Hurd said our vetting process is extremely thorough and safe.
“On average, it’s about 18 to 24 months,” he said. “The United Nations is essentially housing them in camps. They have a background check. They look into their records from what they can find, and they also observe them. In fact, refugees going through this process go through a higher level of scrutiny than any other immigrants coming to the United States through any means.”
After two years of fingerprinting, interviews and database crosschecks, the State Department reported less than a tenth of all of the referred Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States. More than 70 percent of them are women and children.
“There’s much higher scrutiny associated with refugees than from someone applying for a student visa or other non-immigrant visa to the United States,” Hurd said. “Typically, applying for a tourist visa – that takes maybe a week to two weeks to obtain. Compare that to 1.5 to two years of the process a refugee goes through. It’s not even close.”
The proposed measure that passed in the House would require the FBI to conduct background checks on Syrian and Iraqi refugees coming to the United States. It would require the heads of the FBI and Homeland Security Department and the director of national intelligence to certify to Congress that each refugee “is not a threat to the security to the United States.”
The Senate would need to pass this measure to make it law.