In light of the UN General Assembly adopting its recent New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, there has been much discussion on various aspects of the acceptance of refugees in the US.
Due to concerns over security risks and financial constraints, the subject of increasing the amount of refugees has been broached by the US presidential nominees and will most likely be fiercely argued in the upcoming election debates as well.
Having announced that the US will accept 110,000 refugees in 2017, which equates to a 57% increase since 2015, President Barack Obama drove home the commitment of the US in what he referred to as “a test of our common humanity.”
Regardless of where one stands in the matter, it would be difficult to build upon the White House’s seemingly scrutinizing process, or involve more agencies than the ones currently being utilized in the screening.
Here’s a step-by-step guide of the US’s process in permitting refugees to enter the country according to the TheWhite House.
1. Applicants provide identification to the UN Refugee Agency.
As thousands of refugees apply to be processed, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees collects identifying documentation from the applicants, such as biodata (name, address, birthday, place of birth), biometrics (iris scans); and personal interviews.
During this process, only applicants who are strong candidates for resettlement (less than 1% of global refugees) proceed to the next step.
The Department of Homeland Security also notes that there’s recurrent vetting during this stage: “If there is doubt about whether an applicant poses a security risk, they will not be admitted.”
2. A federally-funded Resettlement Support Center receives the applicants information.
As all of the identifying documents are collected, an applicant file is finally created.
Then, information to conduct a biographical security check is compiled.
3. US security agencies screen each applicant for security risks.
* Department of Homeland Security
* US State Department
* National Counterterrorism Center
All of the above groups perform enhanced interagency security checks — the highest level of any category of traveler to the US — to look for anything that might lead them to believe that they’re a security risk.
For Syrian applicants, an additional “enhanced” review is conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.
4. Interviews are conducted with the Department of Homeland Security.
Interviews with US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers are conducted, in addition to the collection of the applicant’s fingerprints.
If the fingerprint or questionable information rises from the interview, the applicant may re-interview.
Additional security checks are taken if the USCIS deems it necessary.
5. Fingerprints are taken.
In this final security step, the applicant’s fingerprints are screened against the FBI’s, DHS’, and DoD’s databases.
6. A medical background check is performed.
Here, refugees may be denied due to medical reasons, or they may receive medical treatment for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.
7. Applicants must take cultural orientation classes and are assigned domestic resettlement locations.
While applicants complete cultural classes, a non-governmental organization determines a suitable resettlement location for them based on factors such as family members already living in the country or health concerns for certain regions.
8. Travel arrangements are made for approved applicants.
During this process, applicants are still subject to additional screening from agencies like the US Customs and Border Protection and the TSA.