The first Syrian family to be resettled in the United States under an expedited “surge operation” for refugees arrived in Missouri late Wednesday night.
Ahmad al-Abboud and his family fled Syria’s civil war for Jordan where they have lived for the past three years. The family lived on “food coupons” during their time in Jordan. But now they’re ready start a new life in the United States.
“I’m happy. America is the country of freedom and democracy, there are jobs, opportunities, there is good education, and we are looking forward to having a good life over there,” al-Abboud said, according to the Associated Press. Indicating that he hoped to learn English, al-Abboud added, “I am ready to integrate in the U.S. and start a new life.”
The normal screening process for Syrian refugees takes anywhere between 18 and 24 months. During that time, applicants must undergo intensive background checks, such as providing medical records, biometric information that’s screened against federal databases, and going in for interviews. They must also meet resettlement requirements and pass several security checks. But under the surge operation, the process will be streamlined to three months.
Since October 2015, 1,000 Syrian refugees have moved to the U.S. from Jordan, the AP reported. And President Obama previously supported the idea of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States by the end of September. A temporary processing center opened in Amman, Jordan “to help meet that goal, and about 600 people are interviewed every day at the center,” the publication noted.
Gina Kassem, the regional refugee coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, indicated that the 10,000 number was a starting point and not a threshold, so it’s possible that the U.S. may take in more refugees over the next year. Currently, the U.S. takes in about 2,000 refugees.
Al-Abboud and his family are just one of thousands of Syrian families who have been forced to flee their home country because of the ongoing civil war ravaging the country since 2011. But even before their arrival, many U.S. Republican lawmakers pre-emptively cited terrorism concerns to condemn Syrian refugee resettlement.
In fact, despite a veto promise from the president, the U.S. House of Representatives still went ahead and passed a bill last year to suspend the refugee resettlement process for Syrians amid concerns that the program could provide a way for terrorists to enter the country.
Since the terror attacks on September 2001, the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees. Only 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,” a Migration Policy Institute expert explained.
Allowing people like al-Abboud could be good economics for the U.S. Despite spending about $4.8 million in services for Cleveland, Ohio’s refugee population, they in turn generated an estimated $48 million in economic impact in 2012
And the correlation between a growing economy and an influx of refugees has been positive in the international arena as well. One study found that if Germany let in 1 million refugees over three years, the growth of its labor force would increase its GDP by 0.6 percent by 2020. A longitudinal Danish study found that refugees didn’t impact unemployment and even increased wages.