A Syrian refugee camp in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Credit: Fabio Sola Penna / Flickr Creative Commons

For Refugees, Gaining Access To The United States Is Already A Difficult Process

November 18, 2015

This week, Governor Charlie Baker made waves when he announced he was "not interested" in accepting refugees from Syria until he had more information about the vetting process. He's not alone: more than half of the governors in the United States have said they don't want Syrian refugees within their borders.

But homeland security expert and host of the "Security Mom" podcast Juliette Kayyem says that many of these governors are overlooking the fact that gaining access to the United States as a refugee is already a very rigorous process.

"Europeans only require a case file, which is essentially a self-reflection by the refugee at the border. We're very different," she explained.

In the U.S., a series of conditions must be satisfied: the person must meet a strict legal construct of what a refugee is, is subject to interviews and health test, and has a biometric identification prepared which can be cross-checked against existing terrorism lists. Connections with family members already in the United States are established, and civic engagement training must be attended.

Then, if those conditions are met, the refugee must be sponsored by a resettlement agency, Kayyem said.

"The process is quite rigorous," she said. "If you take the long view, this is good for national security."

Kayyem suggested that governors concerned about safety could consider exceptions for refugees who are women, children, or have familial connections within state borders.

To hear more from Juliette Kayyem, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.    


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