The Obama administration is conducting social media reviews, but only on those Syrian refugee applicants for whom there are already red flags, according to the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services.
“At this point, with respect to the Syrian refugee stream, we are reviewing social media in those cases where there are existing flags of concern. We are building as quickly as we can to build to a point where we would in fact be screening the entire body of Syrian refugee applicants,” USCIS Director León Rodríguez testified before the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday.
“We are prioritizing — as we bring new resources online — we are prioritizing those areas where we detect the greatest risk,” he added, in response to questions from committee Chairman Michael McCaul.
The Obama administration says it plans to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees to the U.S. despite concerns raised by top national security officials and Republicans that the government lacks the information to fully vet refugees from the terror hot-spot.
The San Bernardino terrorist attack intensified the concern that the U.S. might import individuals with terrorist aims. The female shooter — Tashfeen Malik — was an immigrant who came to the U.S. on a fiancee visa. While she had expressed a jihadi agenda on social media, DHS did not vet her online postings.
When McCaul pressed Rodríguez again about the use of social media to vet refugees, the director responded that currently it is only used in cases where there is a concern about an applicant, but that the agency plans to expand the use of social media vetting.
“We are doing that in cases of flags of concern. We are adding resources quickly so that we use that, in fact, for the entire body [of Syrian refugees],” Rodríguez said.
The Obama administration has admitted over 850 Syrian refugees so far this fiscal year.
McCaul advised that the social media vetting be expanded.