A letter from the Obama Administration to Texas Governor Greg Abbott seeks to reassure the governor that the government has a strong refugee vetting system for Syrian refugees. The letter was signed by the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security.
“Our multi-agency system for vetting refugees is strong, and it has been significantly enhanced over the past few years,” wrote Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in a letter to Governor Abbot obtained by Breitbart Texas. “We have tremendous faith in this system’s ability to detect, investigate, and disrupt terrorists plotting in this country, as it has done repeatedly.”
The letter comes in response to a letter Abbott wrote to the Obama Administration ordering Texas agencies under his control to not participate in any Syrian refugee resettlement program, Breitbart Texas previously reported. He also urged the White House to reconsider the Syrian refugee program. Abbott was joined by dozens of other governors across the nation. Governors from both political parties.
Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees – any one of whom could be connected to terrorism – being resettled in Texas,” Abbott said in the letter to President Barack Obama.
Secretary Johnson’s signature on the letter reassuring Governor Abbott that all is well comes in stark contrast to his testimony before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee in October. Representative Lamar Smith provided Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick with a YouTube video segment of the Secretary’s testimony before the committee where he discussed the limitations of the screening process. After hearing Johnson’s answers Smith responded, “You are sorta having to take their word for it,” referring to the information Syrian refugees provide in the screening process.
The two White House cabinet secretaries detail out the vetting process in the five-page letter, attached below. While the agency uses exhaustive resources to check biometric data and other background information against U.S. intelligence and law enforcement databases as well as international data, there is simply no way to verify information from their home country for a potential terrorist who has not yet shown up on the international intelligence radar screen.
Rep. Smith responded during the hearing, saying, “as I say, both the profile and the motive of terrorist organizations, and your admission that there is some risk involved, to me would persuade the administration to go slow, rather than fast, when it comes to admitting individuals who might do us harm.”
The Administration appears to be set to do exactly the opposite. The letter states that the White House plans to increase Syrian resettlement from 1,682 refugees in the last fiscal year to “at least” 10,000 this fiscal year. The two White House officials attempted to downplay the numbers, writing, “this represents a modest commitment by our Government to accept less than one percent of the approximately four million Syrian refugees in the world.”
Attempting to reassure Governor Abbott, the officials wrote, “First, many candidates for refugee resettlement in the United States are interviewed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees” to determine their eligibility for refugee status. The letter then spends the next four pages explaining the process that Administration officials, including Secretary Johnson, have said is flawed.
Smith asked the officials testifying before the Homeland Security about the high numbers of young adult males who are seeking refugee resettlement. The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center answered, “We have certainly seen terrorist groups talk about, think about, exactly what you are describing, Mr. Smith. Trying to use available programs to get people not only into the United States, but into western European countries as well. So we know that they aspire to do that.” His video testimony reveals he did not know if he could say that they would likely succeed.
FBI Director James Comey also testified before the House Homeland Security Committee hearing, as reported by Breitbart News’ John Hayward. He reported Comey’s famous admission that the government has no real way to conduct background checks on refugees.
“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 until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them,” Comey explained, quite sensibly.
The Administration’s letter also does not address the Syrians who are making their way through the human smuggling pipeline from the Middle East to Mexico and only to arrive at our unsecured southern border. In the past two weeks thirteen Syrians have presented themselves at a port of entry in Laredo, Texas, as reported by Breitbart Texas. Three groups of family members were included in these numbers, but young single males were also included.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.