Obama administration responds to Kasich’s concerns on refugees

The Obama administration has responded to Gov. John Kasich’s concerns about the state accepting Syrian refugees with a five-page letter assuring Kasich that the security vetting “is extraordinarily thorough and comprehensive.”

In a Nov. 20 letter signed by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry obtained by the Dispatch, the two lay out the country’s current extensive system for approving refugees, including interviews by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and biometric screenings by the Department of Defense.

Officers with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services undergo five weeks of specialized training, including fraud detection and prevention, security protocols, interviewing techniques and country conditions research.

After those interviews, U.S. Customs and Border Protection receives a manifest of all refugees who are approved to go to the United States, and after that the Department of State and Department of Health and Human Services work to determine where to send the refugee to, transport the refugee and work with the refugee to make him or her self-sufficient.

“We want to emphasize that no one has a right to be resettled in the United States as a refugee,” the letter read. “All refugees, including Syrians, may only be admitted (to) the United States after USCIS receives all the security checks run by the intelligence and law enforcement communities and all issues are resolved.”

The letter said that applicants for refugee admission “are screened more carefully than any other type of traveler to the United States.”

“We have tremendous faith in this system’s ability to detect, investigate and disrupt terrorist plotting in this country, as it has done repeatedly.”

The letter vows to fulfill the United States’ promise to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, noting that even President Hollande of France vowed to accept Syrian refugees after his country was attacked last week.

The House last week passed a bill that added restrictions to the current refugee screening process for refugees from Syria and Iraq. All Ohio Republican congressmen – as well as Reps. Tim Ryan, D-Niles and Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, supported the bill. Reps. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township and Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland did not.

Similar letters went to other governors who have expressed concern about accepting Syrian refugees.

Kasich last week acknowledged that while he could not keep Syrian refugees out of Ohio, he would prefer to pause the program in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

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