Two Palestinian refugees, both born in Iraq, were arrested in Sacramento and Houston respectively on Thursday for terror related charges. The arrests have already elicited responses from certain U.S. governors who vowed to not accept Syrian refugees.
“This is precisely why I called for a halt to refugees entering the U.S. from countries substantially controlled by terrorists,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said in a statement, according to Fox News. “I once again urge the President to halt the resettlement of these refugees in the United States until there is an effective vetting process that will ensure refugees do not compromise the safety of Americans and Texans.”
Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, 24, is charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS, while Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, 23, is charged with making a false statement involving international terrorism, according to CNN.
Hardan is accused of planning to fight with ISIS and of lying to U.S. officials about receiving arms training. Jayab’s case is slightly different. He allegedly traveled to Syria to fight with the militant Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam, a group which the U.S. considers a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
While Hardan and Jayab’s cases slipped under the radar of U.S. authorities, there’s no indication that either man planned a domestic attack. That’s unlikely to quell the exigency with which opponents of refugee resettlement will try and use these two men as examples, but the refugee vetting process is already the hardest way to get into the U.S. The process can take somewhere between 18 and 24 months, according to the State Department. In November of last year, the House voted to make this process even more stringent.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. has resettled around 784,000 refugees. Before Hardan and Jayab’s cases only three refugees were arrested on terror related charges.
“In those 14 years, exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities—and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible,” Kathleen Newland senior fellow and co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute wrote in October.
Banning refugees is a simplistic solution to a complex problem. Americans are still seven times more likely to be killed by right-wing extremists than by Muslim terrorists. Additionally, the most recent high profile attack, which took place in San Bernardino, California, was perpetrated by a U.S. citizen and his wife who was on a fiancée visa.