America will not halt its efforts to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, one of President Obama’s top security advisers said on Sunday.
In an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said that America has “expansive screening procedures” for accepting refugees who are fleeing from ISIS-related violence. He noted that refugees are “people who’ve suffered the horrors of war, women and children, orphans — We can’t just shut our doors to those people.”
Here’s the full transcript (emphasis added):
CHUCK TODD: Does the president now have any pause about bringing Syrian refugees into the United States?
BEN RHODES: No, Chuck. We have very expansive screening procedures for all Syrian refugees who have come to the United States. There’s a very careful vetting process that includes our intelligence community, our national Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security, so we can make sure that we’re carefully screening anybody who comes to the United States. Let’s remember though Chuck, we’re also dealing with people who’ve suffered the horrors of war, women and children, orphans. We can’t just shut our doors to those people. We need to sort out how to focus on the terrorists that we need to keep out of the country. But I think we do need to do our part to take those refugees who are in need.
The Obama administration has faced increasing pressure from conservative lawmakers to halt its refugee program in the wake of the terrorist attacks, a coordinated effort which ISIS has claimed responsibility for. Multiple news outlets are reporting that at least one of the attackers had entered Paris by posing as a Syrian refugee. Others have noted, however, that the attackers could be intentionally posing as refugees in order to discourage countries from accepting them.
one reason to bring a Syrian passport with you to commit a terror attack—to demonize refugees locally, which is exactly what ISIS wants.
— Mike Giglio (@mike_giglio) November 14, 2015
Concerns that ISIS — an extremist terrorist group that proclaims itself Islamic — would infiltrate the U.S. through its refugee program are not new, but have become louder since the terrorist attack. Some Republican presidential candidates are now calling on the president to halt the program altogether.
While security officials in the United States have expressed concern that infiltration could happen, they are confident in the country’s security screening process, which is one of the most robust in the world. As the Huffington Post explained, America’s refugee acceptance process “is hardly a matter of simply waving through the first 10,000 people who come forward … The screening process ‘typically takes 12 to 18 months … and the reason for that process is that the safety and security of the U.S. homeland comes first.’”
A more thorough explainer on how the U.S. screens incoming refugees can be found here.