There has been rigorous public debate surrounding the topic of refugee resettlement over the last few years. While many reasonable people disagree on resettlement and argue based on facts, a prevalent line that made its way into our public discourse is not true. That line is "We just don't know who these people are." On the contrary, we do know who refugees are when they come to Spokane, and we believe that refugee resettlement makes Americans safer at home and abroad.
Refugees resettled in the United States undergo a rigourus vetting process to ensure Americans' safety. The vetting process includes multiple interviews with Homeland Security officers, three fingerprint scans, and multiple security checks from U.S. agencies. The shortest amount of time the process takes is 18 months, reserved for the most vulnerable people.
Natasha Hall, a former Immigration officer who vetted hundreds of refugees wrote, "By the time Homeland Security steps in to conduct an interview, the officer has a stack of biographical information on the refugee." After reviewing the information, "The Homeland Security officer then conducts a detailed interview. Every word is recorded so it can be matched up with other documentation and past interviews." The vetting process ensures that we know refugees are who they say they are, and only those who pose no danger are resettled in the United States.
It is important to note that the process for resettling refugees in the United States is different from the process in Europe. Those opposed to the U.S. refugee resettlement program often point to crimes committed by refugees or asylum-seekers in European countries as evidence that it's not safe to resettle refugees. However, our vetting process and physical distance from most of the refugee crises ensure that refugees who come to the United States are those who most need help and want to contribute to the success of the nation, not those who would do us harm.
The result of this extensive American vetting process is that no refugee has killed an American in a terrorist attack since the process was created in 1980. The Cato Institute estimates the annual risk of being killed by a refugee in a terrorist attack is 1-in-3,600,000,000. Further, a study of cities which welcome a high percentage of refugees found that crime rates go down in the vast majority of nieghborhoods that welcome significant numbers of refugees.
Nora Ellingsen, a former FBI analyst, said this about the potential for danger posed by refugee resettlement: "Absolutely nothing in the large body of data we have about real terrorist plots in the United States remotely supports a focus on barring refugees."
In contrast to the views of those who want to ban refugees, resettlement actively makes America safer. A bipartisan group of former national security officials that includes former CIA Directors under George W. Bush and Barrack Obama noted that accepting refugees solidifies American national security partnerships with counties in the Middle East and Africa. They also point out that the President's Refugee Ban sends a message to potential translators, embassy employees, and intelligence sources that the United States may not stand with them if they're in danger. That poses unnecessary danger for American military members, diplomats, and intelligence agents.
For more information about the vetting process and the facts surrounding refugees and national security, read this article from World Relief CEO Tim Breene.