By Miranda Christensen
One of the most controversial issues in the United States right now is the debate about whether or not we should allow refugees into our country. Some people express concern that the refugees who enter the United States pose a threat to national security. However, the process through which all refugees have to go through to enter the United States (the vetting process) is not very well known.
The process as it stands right now starts with an initial assessment during which biodata—including the applicant’s birthday, name, address, and biometrics (such as iris scans)—is collected. Then the applicant has to pass an interview to confirm his or her status as an asylum-seeker (or person seeking refuge) and his or her need for resettlement. Then, if the applicant passes, he or she is taken into a resettlement support center that is essentially the same thing as a detainment center. While in the detainment center, the asylum-seeker goes through extensive security checks by four different U.S. government agencies (the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department). This process is repeated whenever new information is added.
Next, the asylum-seeker has to pass another interview. This interview is called a Credible Fear Interview. These interviews are conducted by the justice system and serve as a buffer for the refugee system. In order to pass one of these interviews, an asylum-seeker must present information that proves that the dangers they were experiencing in their homeland could or would not be solved by the seeker’s native government. The interview is conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Asylum-seekers may be interviewed more than once if new information arises or if there are questions about the information they present.
If the asylum-seeker passes the Credible Fear Interview, the asylum-seeker is taken out of the detainment center and is put elsewhere. After this, the U.S. Department of Defense conducts biometric security checks by collecting fingerprint samples to determine if the person seeking refuge has had legal encounters with either the United States or other countries that use the DHS biometric database.
This is the process through which the asylum seekers with high security concerns are sent back to their own countries or are otherwise prevented from living in the U.S. At any point in the process asylum-seekers may be turned away or considered ineligible for refugee status.
If the asylum-seeker passes each one of these steps, the US government sometimes conducts a medical check. Whether or not the person seeking refugee status has to do a medical check, all asylum seekers are put into cultural orientation classes and are assigned to a resettlement location. Throughout the entire admission process, the biodata is checked against terrorist databases just in case new information comes to light. If there is any semblance of a threat that comes from the various checks the asylum-seeker is automatically denied admission.
After the entire process, the asylum-seeker is screened again by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center-Passenger. Once finished, the applicant can apply for a green card (which requires a separate screening process). If the asylum-seeker is granted a green card, then he or she is admitted and is given a permanent right to live in the United States.
Data shows that the likelihood of a refugee or asylum-seeker posing a national threat to the United States is very low. Only 3 refugees out of the 784,000 that have been relocated since September 11, 2001, have been arrested for planning terrorist activities. That’s 0.00000383 percent of relocated refugees. However, it’s up to you to decide whether this process is too long and unnecessarily extensive or whether it’s not long enough.