Murray and Cantwell want 10,000 Syrian refugees in America

By:  Joel Connelly
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Obama administration must fulfill its commitment to resettle at least 10,000 vetted and screened refugees from Syria during the current fiscal year, Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Wednesday.

Murray, Cantwell and 27 other Democratic senators noted in a letter to President Obama that just 1,736 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States in the first seven months of FY 2016.

Up north, Canada has already welcomed more than 20,000 refugees, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showing up to greet the first flight at the airport and distributing warm-weather clothing.

"We write to express our strong support for resettling Syrian refugees in the United States and to urge your administration to make every effort to meet your commitment to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees in fiscal year 2016," the senators wrote.

"Nonetheless, we are deeply concerned about the slow pace of admissions for Syrian refugees in the first seven months of the fiscal year . . . By contrast, more than 6,000 refugees have been admitted from Burma, more than 5,000 refugees have been admitted from both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia, and more than 4,000 refugees have been admitted from Iraq."

The letter flies in the face of anti-refugee rhetoric by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

"And Syrian refugees are on the way to Washington," Trump told a rally in Lynden earlier this month.

"These people are totally undocumented," Trump added.  "Nobody knows who the hell they are."

The statement by Trump was totally false. 

Syrian refugees are the most carefully screened travelers entering the United States, with an extensive interview process prior to their arrival.  Applicants get finger printed, and are subjected to biometric checks, layers of background and biographical screening, health checks, and interviews by the Department of Homeland Security to see if they meet requirements to qualify as refugees.

"No refugees are admitted until after successful completion of this stringent screening regime," the senators wrote.  "Before final acceptance and permission to travel is granted, the applicant must clear security checks by the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Defense and the Department of State."

In December, a group of 20 Republican and Democratic national security leaders -- including ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and ex-CIA directors former Gens. David Petraeus and Michael Hayden -- urged acceptance of refugees as in the national interest.

Numerous Republican governors have vowed to resist Syrian refugees. The nastiest refusals have predictably come from Texas. By contrast, Gov. Jay Inslee has said that vetted refugees are welcome in Washington.

The United States has operated on a big scale in the past, rescuing 883,317 Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon in 1975, and later another 200,000 Indochinese refugees.

"Refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of terrorism," the senators wrote. "Categorically refusing to take them only feeds the narrative of ISIS that there is a war between Islam and the West, and that Muslims are not welcome in the United States and Europe, and that the ISIS caliphate is their true home.

"We must make clear that the United States rejects this worldview by continuing to offer refuge to the world's most vulnerable people, regardless of their religion or nationality."