Refugee Vetting Reviewed


The LA Time ran an article where they reviewed the vetting of a refugees, quoting Noah Gottschalk a Washington-based senior humanitarian policy advisor for Oxfam America; “Refugees are more scrutinized than other traveler to the U.S. …”  [I would hope so, it would be interesting to know the reject rate, do 99.9% pass?]

Here are the bullet points of the existing process, with comments:

  • United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, determines, usually [more than 50% of the time?] through an interview :
    • whether an applicant qualifies under international laws for refugee status
      • collects identity documents,
      • biographical information,
      • and biometric data, such as iris scans for Syrians
        [are the iris scan verified with the Syrian government? The iris scan and other biometric data can be used to confirm the id as the process goes forward, but in my view is of limited value in doing background.]
  • Refugee support centers, contracted by the U.S. State Department, compile a refugee’s personal data and background information for the security clearance process and an in-person interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
    [my security clearance verified my employment history, criminal background check, interviewed my references and neighbors, possibly monitored by activities for 24 hours (this may be urban legend), likely ran a credit check … .  This process took 18 – 24 months, with full access to records.  Most if not all of this is impossible for a displaced refugee.]
  • State Department checks the refugee’s name against a “watch list.”
    • Certain refugees might be required to undergo an additional security review, according to the agency’s checklist.
      [Would this process detect an ISIS plant, with a valid, but false Syrian passport and reasonably “legend” to borrow a term from 007 movies.  It would be interesting to know failure rate.]
  • National Counterterrorism Center conducts an inter-agency check on certain applicants, such as males considered to be of combat age and those who are single with no family commitments or ties, to determine if any new “derogatory information” has come up since the initial check that might disqualify the applicant.
    [At this point, the individual is identified by name and any documents they have provided, their fingerprints have been run against our database, which reportedly includes prints collected from the battlefield and raids on terrorist compounds. Also intelligence from electronic intercepts and “sources”.  It would be interesting to see metric of how many hits are found.  Note: the Boston  marathon bombers had “family commitments or ties”]
  • Syrian refugees referred for resettlement in the U.S. face additional screening.
  • Once an applicant is cleared to move forward, Citizenship and Immigration Services officers conduct another in-person interview that includes any family member older than 14.
    [again it would be interesting to see metric of number of rejects.]

    • The officers collect the applicant’s fingerprints and photographs and determine whether the individual qualifies as a refugee.  [what happened to UN biometric data?  Is the system so flawed that this is necessary?]
  • The applicant’s fingerprints are screened by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense before the candidate for resettlement is sent for medical tests to ensure that he or she is free of any communicable diseases “that could pose a public health threat,” according to USCRI.
  • Once the results of the security checks and medical screening have been cleared, the refugee is approved for resettlement.

See Washington Post article Refugees are already vigorously vetted. I know because I vetted them for a first hand review of process, which appears to be a series of interviews, looking for discrepancies.


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