State Dept. Official: ‘Handful’ of Refugees to U.S. Have Been ‘A Threat,’ Current Vetting Process Better

AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson

A State Department official acknowledge Thursday that “threats” have been admitted to the U.S. as refugees in the past but stressed that the current vetting process has improved.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard explained, when prompted by subcommittee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), that while there have been lapses in the past, the vetting process has improved.

“I agree with you that in the history of the three million refugees who have come here, there have been a handful that have been a threat to the United States and fortunately they have been stopped before anything bad happened,” Richard said.

Richard recalled the 2009 revelation that two Iraqis admitted to the U.S. as refugees were later revealed to have attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

“The two Iraqis in Kentucky were the most shocking example,” She said. “They had done bad things in Iraq, they had lied to get into the country, and had our current system been in place, they would have been caught before they came, before they got here. And that’s why the system has been improved since that episode.”

She went on to defend the refugee program as an effort that “does as much as humanly possible to reduce the risks of bringing refugees to this country and we have great confidence in it.”

Gowdy highlighted the need for a balance of the risks and likelihood that something could go awry.

“I haven’t heard a single one of you say there’s no risk, in fact you can’t say there is no risk,” Gowdy said to the hearing’s panel of witnesses. He added that everybody “would agree that the potential consequences of us getting it wrong are cataclysmic. We have to be right every time. so the risk can-can still be small and something bad can happen. And what I’m trying to get folks to do is weigh and balance the risk versus the potentiality of us getting it wrong.”