House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) is calling on President Obama to rescind his push to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees over the coming year until the administration can assure no terrorists will be admitted.
Last week FBI Director James Comey repeatedly conceded to the House Judiciary Committee that the government currently has insufficient information to fully vet the Syrian refugees the Obama administration seeks to admit.
“I can’t sit here and offer an assurance that there is no risk associated with this,” Comey said during the hearing when pressed by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-IA) about the safety of his constituents.
In a letter to Obama, Goodlatte highlightes Comey and other officials’ recent statements voicing the vulnerabilities in the Syrian refugee vetting process. The Virginian argues that that admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees without first ensuring they will not be a threat to the American people is “ill-conceived.”
“I am disturbed that U.S. refugee policy could again be used as a mechanism to enter the U.S. by foreign nationals who want to do us harm. We must prevent even one American from being harmed by Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S, and thus we must take the concerns of security officials seriously,” Goodlatte writes.
In his missive, the judiciary chairman points to additional warnings about the vetting process for refugees coming to the U.S. from Syria’s terrorist hotbed — noting Comey’s testimony in which the FBI director acknowledged the U.S. has a dearth of information about the Syrian refugees. By comparison, Comey granted that even with a decade of intelligence in Iraq, the U.S. still ended up admitting Iraqi refugees who were terrorist threats.
“Director Comey also testified at a separate congressional hearing that ‘we can only query against that which we have collected, and so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database til the cows come home, but … nothing will show up, because we have no record on that person’” Goodlatte writes.
He also highlights comments from Department of Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson, in which the agency head said, “it is true that we’re not going to know a whole lot about a lot of these Syrians.”
Officials U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency responsible for adjudicating the applications of Syrian refuges have also pointed to vetting difficulties.
“In fact, on October 1, 2015, Acting Associate Director for the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS), Matthew Emrich, admitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest that the government of Syria does not have any databases that the U.S. government can access to run security checks,” Goodlatte writes.
In his final exhibit, the Republican lawmaker spotlights the February testimony of FBI Counterterrorism Division Michael Steinbach, quoting, “‘the concern is in Syria, the lack of our footprint on the ground in Syria, that the databases won’t have the information we need. So, it is not that we have a lack of process, it is there is a lack of information.’ And he went on to say that ‘you are talking about a country that is a failed state, that is—does not have any infrastructure so to speak, so you—all of the data sets, the police, the intel services that normally you would go and seek that information don’t exist.’”
Concluding, Goodlatte presses on Obama on his level of awareness about these concerns and whether he will ignore them. Goodlatte further calls on Obama to stop the administration’s plan to admit thousands of Syrian refugees over the coming year until a fully secure process is put in place.
”Based on the concerns raised by security officials within your Administration at the agencies relevant to conducting security checks, I request that you rescind your directive to Secretary Kerry to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees during Fiscal Year 2016, and that your Administration not admit any Syrian refugees until such time that a security check process is implemented that will ensure no refugee is admitted who is a terrorist or is likely to be a terrorist,” he writes.