Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was the first of more than 30 primarily Republican governors who are attempting to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees. When asked about his specific concerns regarding the two-year screening process for refugees seeking to enter the U.S., however, Snyder was unable to point to a single problem with the current system.
“I wouldn’t single out any specific problem I have with it,” the Republican governor said.
Snyder said he would like to see a review of the process in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, a twin suicide bombing in Beirut, and the bombing of a plane over Egypt.
“When you have these events it does make sense to pause and simply say, ‘Let’s continue looking at these events,” he told NPR Host Steve Inskeep. “I really want the federal government to come back and say, ‘We have now made a review of these, at least three situations, and believe that our current system is acceptable – or not and that they’re making some modifications.’”
Inskeep followed up to ask if similar precautions should be taken to review how tourists enter the country. He noted that people from Western Europe don’t even need to apply for a Visa to enter the country.
“Well I wouldn’t necessarily [limit the entry of tourists]” Snyder said. “This is a particular case, this refugee process, where there is a high degree of concern.”
That concern, as more than one immigration expert told ThinkProgress this week, is largely misplaced. None of the attackers, at least in Paris, were refugees. Conversely, most of them were citizens of countries in Western Europe and could have entered the U.S. very quickly without any sort of vetting process.
Refugees face far more scrutiny after they apply to enter the U.S. They’re subjected to a screening process, which takes up to two years, and their records are checked against those of at least three federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security.
While there were initial fears that at least one of the attackers in Paris might have slipped in to Europe by posing as a refugee, investigators no longer believe that is true. Those carrying out the query have said that the Syrian passport registered to an asylum seeker was either fake or stolen.
Snyder said he hopes the federal government will review all the processes through which foreign nationals enter the U.S. but reiterated that the refugee program was his primary concern.
NPR’s Inskeep then posed a hypothetical: “Suppose President Obama picked up the phone and called you this evening and said, ‘Governor, heard about your concern. We looked into it and it turns out we do have a strong review process. It takes up to a couple of years and we think it’s good. Would you be satisfied?”
“That would be helpful,” Snyder said, but refused to say if that would be enough to make him and the more than 30 other Republican governors who are protesting the admission of refugees to back down from their fight.
“This should not be a partisan issue,” he added.