The Big Logical Error Made By Everyone Linking Syrian Refugees To The Paris Attack

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rachel La Corte

Protesters on opposing sides of the Syrian refugee resettlement issue rally in front of the state Capitol in Olympia, Wash., Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has said the state will welcome refugees and has criticized other governors who have threatened to stop accepting them following last week's terror attacks in Paris.

All the perpetrators of the mass murder in Paris who have been identified are European nationals from France and Belgium.

Still the effort to link the attacks to Syrian refugees has continued. Specifically, some are pointing to the fact that at least one terrorist left behind a Syrian passport. This passport has been determined by officials to be fake. CNN reported that the individual, along with one other unnamed attacker who may have been carrying a fake Syrian passport, were also European nationals.

But these facts are cited by critics of the Syrian refugee program in the United States, including 31 governors, as a justification for suspending the program. Even if Syrian refugees themselves were not involved in the attacks, the argument goes, the existence of the fake passports proves that the Syrian refugee program provides a unique opportunity for members of ISIS, like the ones who perpetrated the Paris attacks, to enter the United States. These individuals, critics note, are believed to have used the “migrant route” to reenter Europe through Greece. So the United States should shut down its refugee program to prevent the same thing from happening here.

This argument, however, has a huge logical flaw.

Using a fake Syrian passport makes sense if you are a European national who would like to travel to Syria (or elsewhere) and back undetected. Entry into Europe through Greek islands is particuarly porous and open to abuse:

Greek authorities on islands such as Leros, Lesbos and Chios have confronted thousands of arrivals every day in recent months as refugees and other migrants make the short sea crossing from Turkey in inflatable boats. Short of staff and equipment, Greek police carry out only a simple procedure that involves taking people’s data and fingerprints, and sometimes asking them a few questions, before giving them permission to travel onward, deeper into Europe.

But the process of entering Greece as a (fake) migrant is not at all comparable to entering the United States as a Syrian refugee. The later takes 18-24 months and includes the collection of biometric data, security checks, interviews and background investigations.


CREDIT: Center For American Progress

It would be extremely challenging for an individual with a fake Syrian passport to enter the United States through this gauntlet. That’s why of the 784,000 refugees who have come to the United States in the 14 years since 9/11, none have committed an act of domestic terrorism and only three have been charged with any terrorism-related crime.

CNN reports that “[t]he refugee program is simply the toughest way for any foreigner to enter the U.S. legally.”

Moreover, the individuals like those who conducted the Paris attacks — French and Belgian nationals — have absolutely no reason to subject themselves to such scrutiny with fake documents. These individuals could simply use their EU passport to enter the United States without a visa. Belgium and France are part of the United State’s visa waiver program. The only thing you need to do to enter the country is “answer a few questions on a form on the Internet, and have a passport with a digital photograph.”

It makes no logical sense that individuals like the Paris attackers would seek to use the Syrian refugee program to enter the U.S. when far easier methods are available.