A top Obama immigration official admitted Wednesday that some refugees launch terrorist plots after they’ve been “vetted”and invited into the United States.
“Without a doubt, that’s something that has occurred, yes,” Leon Rodriguez, who works as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told a Senate panel.
Rodriguez was intensively questioned by Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, who pressed for answers as Rodriguez tried to avoid providing any details, such as numbers, about the number of refugees who later launch terror plots.
“Just to clarify your earlier statement, you touted nobody came in through the refugee program as an adult who committed a violent act,” Vitter said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “But there sure were those who came in, who were convicted of terror offenses,” he said.
“I was transparent about that. That’s correct,” Rodriguez insisted.
Vitter responded; “Have you personally reviewed all of those cases? Because as the Chair said, we’ve asked for the total number, and your department, and other agencies, have been unable to give us a number. Have you personally reviewed that universe of cases, both with regard to the total number and the specific circumstances—perhaps common threads—of those cases?”
“I can’t tell you that I have. I can tell you two things,” Rodriguez replied, saying he’s “reviewed a lot of cases” and that the DHS reviews cases to “make improvements” after refugees are arrested for attempting to carry out a terrorist attack against Americans.
“But shouldn’t you know the total number in that universe?” Vitter asked.
Rodriguez was speechless for a moment. “Perhaps we know it as an agency—I, I, I, I have some rough sense of the number, I don’t specifically know the number.”
Vitter said his office had asked that question for months and never got a direct response. “You’re in charge of the program. It seems to me you should darn well know what the number is, and it seems to me you should review those cases, all of those cases to look for common threads.”
Vitter also cited FBI director James Comey’s statements that the U.S. government cannot conduct thorough background checks on the refugees it’s importing, and has nothing on intelligence besides what it’s collected on its own. “In the vast majority of Syrian cases, that’s nothing, correct?” he asked.
“Well, in part because we would hope that a lot of those folks are not coming up on those intelligence databases at all,” Rodriguez evaded. “In fact, this has been my observation meeting them. They are law-abiding, working people who are coming here to find a better life. That’s why they would not appear in those kinds of databases.”
“But you do admit that there are terrorists who are not on those databases,” Vitter said.
“I don’t know,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know. I can’t guarantee every single terrorist is in those databases. What I can tell you is we have identified—”
“Hold on, let’s back up,” Vitter replied. “We can all agree, isn’t it clear that every single terrorist is not on those databases? Isn’t that a virtual certainty?”
“I think that’s true regardless of what country they’re coming from, and how they’re coming here, and in fact whether they’re born in the United States to begin with. The point I am making—first of all, I would not dismiss the interview process so quickly,” Rodriguez said, adding that the interviewers were “highly trained.”
Rodriguez went on: “The track record stands for itself: Significant numbers of people have been denied because of what is in those databases and it is in fact a high priority of government to develop as much and as robust information as we can about these organizations.”
“Is part of the ‘track record’ terrorist prosecutions of folks who came in through the refugee program?” Vitter asked.
“Without a doubt, that’s something that has occurred, yes,” the official admitted.
Earlier in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee hearing, another Obama administration official refused to say how many Syrians the government plans to ship to the U.S. as refugees. The administration set in motion plans to pour 110,000 refugees into American communities in fiscal year 2017, which begins October 1.
The hearing comes as a DHS revealed over 1,811 aliens from terrorist countries under final deportation orders were granted U.S. citizenship—giving them the right to vote and gain security clearances—and the Obama administration shut down the program that uncovered the rampant fraud.
Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions’ office found in June that of the 580 people convicted of terrorism-related offenses between September 11, 2001, and December 31, 2014, not including the Muslims who perpetrated the 9/11 terror attacks, 380 were foreign-born, with 24 of those brought in as refugees.