KHAVICH: Unsettling consequences of settling Syrian refugees
Opinions Column: Self-Evident Truths
It has been a conflicted few weeks for Syrian refugees. Although President Barack Obama recently announced that the 10,000th refugee has just been settled in the United States, they have been compared to poisoned Skittles, a terrorist attack with possible links to the Islamic State that occurred in Manhattan and on Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Tex.) announced that his state would not be participating further in the President’s refugee resettlement program, stating that "the lax security of the refugee program is indefensible and endangering to all Americans." This comes several months after 31 out of 50 states announced a similar intention not to cooperate with the refugee program. According to Rasmussen Reports polls, a majority of voters agree, with 59 percent being opposed to Obama’s 2016 plan, citing concerns over national security. As to his plans to increase the number of refugees accepted from 85,000 to 110,000 in 2017, only 12 percent of voters agreed.
Near Eastern and North African migrants have often posed as refugees in the past, a distinction that is often very difficult to ascertain: In Europe, according to the Vice President of the European Commission, 60 percent of those seeking asylum status in Europe last year were not actually refugees. Here in the United States, there are major flaws with our vetting process — Department of Homeland Security Director León Rodríguez admitted Wednesday that refugees are often admitted based on their testimony alone, without corroboration with other documents.
The process suffers in other ways: Last November, FBI Director James Comey expressed concerns that the agency lacked the information to ensure that every Syrian refugee was not a threat to security. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper agreed, stating that he would not “put it past the likes of (the Islamic State) to infiltrate operatives among these refugees.” And we know that the government’s background checks are not infallible. Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was placed on an FBI watchlist and then taken off of it following investigation, as well as passing a full background check to purchase his gun. Ahmad Khan Rahami, the suspect in the recent New York and New Jersey bombings, was investigated numerous times by federal agents and found free of suspicion. As if these security holes weren’t enough, under the current “surge operation” to meet the 10,000 figure, President Obama has sped up vetting processes that typically take 18 to 24 months to a measly three months.
Only around a dozen refugees since 9/11 have been arrested for security concerns. But this wave of refugees is different. According to the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, 13 percent of Syrian refugees say they have a “positive view or somewhat positive view” of the Islamic State. NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe and US General Philip Breedlove stated in March that the Islamic State was “spreading like a cancer” among refugees. The Islamic State has itself explicitly warned that it will be using refugees as a vector for terrorism, with one video claiming that 4,000 jihadists had been smuggled into Western nations, and another stating that “some of our brothers have fulfilled their mission, but others are still waiting to be activated.” While a terrorist organization would of course want people to think they had operatives everywhere, these threats cannot simply be dismissed — one of the bombers in the Paris attack was suspected of using a Syrian passport to pose as a Syrian refugee. And if the refugees themselves are not committing acts of terror, their children might. Many of the terrorists in recent attacks have been nationals of the country — the Nice attacker, the Orlando shooter, many of the Paris attackers. In fact, according to the Washington Times, second-generation immigrants accounted for at least half of the deadly attacks in the U.S. over the past decade. The Islamic State are masters at using social media to recruit American teens, with more than 100 being recruited in 2015 alone.
Refugees and migrants have also not behaved in the most innocent of ways throughout Europe, with migrants in Germany committing over 400,000 crimes in 2015 and 69,000 in the first quarter of 2016 —data which does not include the New Year’s Eve debacle, in which hundreds of women were sexually assaulted in Cologne.
When all of these factors are taken into account, it seems that the risks outweigh the benefits in accepting Syrian refugees into our borders, something that we were never legally or morally obligated to do in the first place. In fact, we should consider whether it is prudent to entirely cease immigration from nations at a high risk of terrorism until the Islamic State is taken care of and the Syrian conflict is over.
Aviv Khavich is a School of Engineering sophomore majoring in computer engineering and computer science. His column, "Self-Evident Truths," runs on alternate Mondays.
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