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Syrian Refugees: Separating The Truth And The Facts From Myth, Paranoia, Fear, And Xenophobia

I’ve said repeatedly in the last several days that the Obama Administration, and others, need to do a better job of providing real informationas part of the ongoing debate over American policy toward refugees from Syria, and our entire refugee and asylum policy actually work in the wake of last week’s attacks in Paris. Now that the refugees have become a political football and politicians on both sides of the political aisle, although admittedly mostly Republicans, are calling for the American refugee program to be suspended if not halted altogether, that’s finally starting to happen.

First, Alex Nowrasten from the Cato Institute has a detailed discussion of how this entire process works. There are differences, for example, in the way that people who arrive in the United States claiming asylum under the law are treated, and the manner in which people located overseas who are applying for admission to the United States are treated before the are even allowed to come to the Continental United States. In short, Nowrasten makes it clear that the process that overseas refugee applicants go through is far more rigorous, and last longer, before the applicant(s) are brought to the United States. Norwash also discuss how the overseas refugee application works generally in more detail than I’ve seen to date, along with debunking the claim that these refugees pose a risk of being security risks to the extent Republican Presidential candidates, and the group of mostly Republican Governors opposing the Administration’s plans, have claimed.

Second, Virginia political blogger Brian Schoeneman has a post at Bearing Drift, one of Virginia’s top political blogs, examining, and debunking, many of the myths that have been spread about both the Syrian refugees and about American refugees in particular.

A third piece can be found at The Guardianand the predominantly British newspaper does a very good job of going through the basics of the process that these refugees have gone through since we began processing refugee requests from Syria several years ago.

Finally, Talking Points Memo has an Associated Press piece that goes through the basics of the American program and seeks to answer many of the concerns that people have expressed over the past week, as well as long before the Paris attacks themselves.

Both pieces link to source material and other sources that provide factual support for their arguments, which is far more than can be said for the largely paranoid rants of the opponents of the Administration policy. If you have any questions or concerns about refugee policy in general, and how it is being applied to Syrian refugees in particular, all of these posts are well worth reading, and sharing with anyone who is concerned about an issue that has quickly become a political football here in the United States. Also, I encourage readers to post links to other material they have run across on this issue that has proven helpful in understanding what’s going on. The more information there is out there, the better. I’ll try to keep up with the comments and add at least some of the suggested pieces in an update as we go along.

Update: Some additional links culled from the comments so far:

As I said, this is a situation where more information can only help in trying to push back against the misinformation out there.

Update #2: Here’s more from someone who practices immigration law, it’s a public Facebook post so it should be viewable to all.

Update #3: Katie Sola at Forbes looks at the numbers behind the processing of Syrian refugees for any evidence that they pose a threat, and finds no evidence to support the argument that they are.

Update #4: Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy makes the moral and strategic case for admitted Syrian war refugees.

Update #5: In a second post, Somin looks at the legal issues surrounding efforts by Governors to block Syrian refugees from coming to their states, and concludes that the states have little, if any, legal authority to block the refugees.

And, John Oliver explains why using the refugee process to try to sneak terrorists into the United States would be one of the dumber strategies ISIS could employ:

Somehow I don’t think ISIS is that dumb.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. KM says:

    Good on you, Doug! Knowledge is power and helps temper hasty minds. I’ll let you know if I see anything of value.

    Rumor runneth the whole world ’round before Truth stirs in her bed, after all…..

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  2. bookdragon says:

    Thank you.

    There’s also this run down in Time:

    http://time.com/4116619/syrian-refugees-screening-process/

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  3. Bill Lefrak says:

    Not to beat a dead horse, but what needs to happen here is that liberal bloggers and left-wing academia should take in these refugees personally. Don’t be falconrefugeedoves. Have the courage of your own convictions. Put your money where your mouth is. Potentially your limbs, too. Your necks. Don’t just talk like progressive numbskulls. Live progressively, too.

    Look, honestly, if we’re talking pure odds, it’s overwhelmingly probable nothing bad will happen. Figure 99%+. There is however that chance, you know, that you and your families if you have families might wake up one night with your heads separated from your bodies. C’est la vie.

    Clear aside the bric-a-brac. Take down that faux Jackson Pollock. Buy a Koran.

    Take them in, personally, lefties, there’s places in heaven for you, if the latter exists.

    #don’tbeafalconrefugeedoves

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  4. Mikey says:

    Your morning drive to work is so much more dangerous than Syrian refugees. Hell…your daily shower or bath is more dangerous. That dump you take in the morning before the shower or bath? More dangerous. Stepping out your front door is more dangerous. Getting out of bed is more dangerous. STAYING in bed…yep, more dangerous.

    Literally: almost everything is more dangerous than Syrian refugees.

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  5. Jeremy R says:

    In addition to the intelligence agency vetting there is an interview process with potential refugees that spans many interviews across a great deal of time. Here’s a Bosnian refugee describing what that interview process was like for her family:

    How a refugee gets to America, explained by an actual refugee

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  6. Scott says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    Look, honestly, if we’re talking pure odds, it’s overwhelmingly probable nothing bad will happen.

    If I were King, I would subject the entire American population to the concept of risk management. Because you’re right, the probability of any act of terrorism on an American individual is near zero. Even after factoring the magnitude of potential consequences, a rational analysis would be to spend a whole lot less on the mitigation of this risk. But no, we go totally and unnecessarily overboard.

    We are not a rational people.

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  7. bookdragon says:

    This one is also good:

    https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/11/18/seth-moulton-opened-his-home-heart-refugee/uWe2uCXLfxke5klUtbFK8M/story.html

    For a while, he lived with the Moulton family in Marblehead. Moulton says he is like a brother.

    Even with a decorated Marine captain supporting his application, it took 16 months to complete the security checks and grant the translator asylum. “And he already had a record of service, of literally putting his life on the line for our country in combat,” Moulton said.

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  8. Tony W says:

    Is this where I get to remind everyone about the Ebola panic? Same fearful characters, different thing to be afraid of.

    Thank goodness we fought the Nazis before cowardice became so fashionable.

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  9. Jeremy R says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    Not to beat a dead horse, but what needs to happen here is that liberal bloggers and left-wing academia should take in these refugees personally. Don’t be falconrefugeedoves. Have the courage of your own convictions. Put your money where your mouth is. Potentially your limbs, too. Your necks. Don’t just talk like progressive numbskulls. Live progressively, too.

    US refugees are set up with their own homes and very short-term financial assistance. They don’t require adoptive households.

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  10. Jeremy R says:

    WaPo fact check on the repeated lies by multiple presidential candidates about the number of Syrian refugees the US is taking in:

    Repeat after me: Obama is not admitting 100,000, 200,000 or 250,000 Syrian refugees

    [T]he planned number of Syrian refugees thus far is 10,000. How can people running for president — even if they are all political novices — continue to get this so wrong?

    As we have explained before, the only thing close to a 200,000 figure is an announcement in September by Secretary of State John Kerry that the United States was prepared to boost the number of total refugees accepted from around the world in fiscal 2016, from 70,000 to 85,000. Then, in 2017, Kerry said that 100,000 would be accepted.

    That adds up to 185,000 over two years. But this would be the total number of refugees, not the number of refugees from Syria.

    By law, the president every fiscal year sets the maximum number of refugees the United States can accept in a year.

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  11. Tyrell says:

    Bernie ‘s solution: blame it on the weather

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  12. Tyrell says:

    Bernie ‘s solution: blame it on the weather

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  13. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Bill Lefrak:

    Not to beat a dead horse, but what needs to happen here is that liberal bloggers and left-wing academia should take in these refugees personally. Don’t be falconrefugeedoves. Have the courage of your own convictions. Put your money where your mouth is. Potentially your limbs, too. Your necks. Don’t just talk like progressive numbskulls. Live progressively, too.

    As a property owner with a few vacant rentals (including a unit directly above me), I’ve contacted our state refugee services to offer any assistance I can provide.

    Unfortunately, however, my state has the most gutless Governor in the Union.

    If you think invective is bad in comment sections, you should hear what Hoosier refugee services think of our good for nothing, sh*t for brains, chief assh*lebeloved Governor.

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  14. Guarneri says:

    Thanks for the links. It’s good to know nothing could happen.

    I don’t know what the hell those far right nut jobs at ABC News were thinking —

    http://hotair.com/archives/2015/11/19/abc-say-remember-in-2013-when-terrorists-used-refugee-status-to-infiltrate-the-us/

    If we don’t set the record straight those crazies in Obama’s own CIA and FBI are going to say the vetting is problematic…..

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  15. bill says:

    @Mikey: tell that to the executed french, they could use a laugh.

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  16. Mikey says:

    @bill: Given that none of the Paris terrorists were Syrian refugees, you have no point to make.

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  17. An Interested Party says:

    Hmm…some commenters around here could really use some testosterone shots considering how they are reacting to this issue…

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  18. Guarneri says:

    @Mikey:

    Don’t be a pedant. If the victims were shot with Kalishnikovs vs AK-47s are they less dead?

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