The United States’ admission of Syrian refugees was never as generous (or perhaps “naive” would be a better word) as our European neighbors, which have brought in hordes of refugees (and migrants) by the millions. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t increased our level of risk.
Despite the small number of refugees the Obama administration pushed to allow in (10,000, at a cost of $64,370 per-person to resettle over five-years), there was more debate over the unintended consequences of such a policy here than abroad. The main concern was of terrorists slipping through the cracks, which has proved to be a very real problem in Europe (as one of the attackers on the Paris Bataclan nightclub entered the European Union as a faux-refugee).
But how common is the problem really? National Review’s Mark Krikorian reports: The narrative about refugee resettlement spun by the invite-the-world crowd is that refugees pose no threat to Americans. To pick only the first link to pop up in Google, see this from VOA: “UNHCR: Refugees Pose No Threat to US National Security“. This is because they are “rigorously vetted“, “the most thoroughly vetted of all people entering our nation“. The problem is that vetting is only as good as the information available. And we simply don’t have access to information that would successfully identify potential bad guys
Comey’s testimony last week revealed the consequences of this lack of information. While most of the time he was asked about Hillary’s e-mails and Russia, Russia, Russia, Sen. Tillis asked about terrorism investigations. Comey responded that out of 2,000-plus “violent extremist investigations … about 300 of them are people who came to the United States as refugees.” So 15 percent of the FBI’s terrorism cases are refugees – far more than their share of the immigrant population, let alone the general population. And that denominator of 2,000 presumably includes people with no immigration nexus at all – skinheads, antifa, Klan, environmental and animal rights extremists, et al. So the refugee share of immigration-related terrorism investigations is more than 15 percent, perhaps much more.
This suggests that the president’s temporary pause in travel from six terrorist-ridden Middle Eastern countries (the subject of appeals court proceedings today in Richmond) is almost beside the point. Better, tougher, more thorough vetting isn’t likely to make any difference since refugees really are pretty thoroughly vetted. The problem is that vetting people from failed or enemy states is impossible.
And of course, the terror risk is just one argument against resettling refugees from the Middle East.
More importantly, if politicians were actually concerned about those fleeing ISIS, they’d push for them to be resettled in the Middle East. For the cost of resettling one Syrian refugee in America, we can resettle twelve in the Middle East. Additionally, given that most Syrians don’t speak a word of English, this seems to be the best option for their future employment prospects as they try to rebuild the lives they left behind.
And lastly – I know what you’re all thinking: “why should we trust anything Comey has to say?”
In this case, these refugees have nothing to do with Hillary Clinton and her emails, so it’s probably safe to take his word for it.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]