The United States lives and dies on its moral authority. We cannot go to battle with a living, breathing evil like ISIS if we cannot claim to be better than them. For this reason, it is only just that we have become a haven for refugees. We have opened our doors to those fleeing war-ravaged hellholes like Iraq. We have given them safe haven. It is a noble effort, and it speaks to the compassion and morality that makes this country great.
It is also, say many experts, weakening our national security one refugee at a time.
For the last thirty-five years, we have relied on the United Nations to send us refugees. Before being admitted across our borders, we vet them and reject them if something in their background suggests they could be a threat to our safety. It is through this process that the State Department intends to accept tens of thousands of refugees from Syria in the coming years. The problem? FBI officials say that it is impossible to screen these refugees thoroughly enough to catch the terrorists among them.
A Dangerous Invitation
According to Michael Steinbach, the deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism unit, the U.S. lacks the resources to stop Islamic terrorists from getting into the country through the refugee program. “The concern is that in Syria, the lack of our footprint on the ground in Syria, the databases won’t have the information we need. So it’s not that we have a lack of a process, it’s that there is a lack the information.”
Because Syria is in even worse shape than Iraq, the U.S. does not have any way of separating the “good” refugees from the bad. Steinbach insists that without a major change in the way we go about vetting these refugees, there is a good chance that terrorists associated with ISIS could slip into the country.
Troubled by these concerns, Michael McCaul of the Homeland Security Committee has sent a letter to the White House saying that the country’s refugee plan “raises serious national security concerns.” If we can’t be 100 percent sure that we aren’t throwing the door wide open for terrorists, how can the president pursue this plan in good conscience?
This is a question that Obama has yet to address with a coherent answer. The administration response has been to assure Americans that all refugees are put through a rigorous screening process. That is not in doubt. What is in doubt is whether that process is stringent enough to prevent catastrophe.
There are ways to preserve our moral standing in the world without jeopardizing our security. This week, the State Department announced that we would send another $125 million to the UN World Food Program, which provides nutrition for nearly six million Syrians and Syrian refugees every month. That is an example of the kind of thing America can do to help those less fortunate without putting our citizens in imminent danger. And until we can be certain that we aren’t letting Islamic murderers settle in our cities, it’s the kind of humanitarian assistance we must limit ourselves to.