Refugee
Image Source: waronwant.org

Last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California  that rocked the nation has serious consequences to the immigration state of affairs in this country.  It is very different from previous violent incidents because it is explicitly identified as an act of international terrorism.

One of the shooters, Tashfeen Malik, was a Pakistani national who was petitioned by her U.S.-born husband on a fiancée visa.  Using a different name, Malik signed up on Facebook and expressly pledged allegiance to ISIS. Two days later, the couple went on their deadly rampage.

Prior to San Bernardino there was Paris where the attackers are believed to have ties with ISIS. Knowing this, we face a hot-button political issue is: Should the U.S. continue processing Syrian refugee applications?

Fear of terrorists masquerading as refugees and gaining lawful entry into a country maybe legit. Two of the Paris attackers are believed to have gained admission to the  Schengen area as Syrian refugees. The person believed to have  instigated the San Bernardino killings came to this country on a fiancée visa.

Was there a way to screen her for deadly intentions?  It does not matter what kind of visa is used to enter this country — such as tourist, student, fiancée, worker or  visa waiver program. The problem is that the screening process and background checks for these aliens are five times more lax than the U.S. evaluation process for refugee applications.

Drastic policy and system changes should be instituted in the screening process for non-immigrant visa applications. USCIS reports that so far, out of 23,000 Syrian refugee applicants, only 2,000 are considered eligible.  Refugees are admitted into a country when they can prove a “well-founded fear of persecution” because of their race, religion, nationality or political affiliation in their own country.

The screening process and background checks for refugee applicants are rigorous with layers and layers of screening to make sure that they are not infiltrators or militants of any creed.

  1. A refugee files an application before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
  2. The UNHCR evaluates the application and when approved, UNHCR sends the application to the U,S, Refugee Admission Program (USRAP), operated by the U.S. Department of State. Under the USRAP, said application will undergo another scrutiny, background check and biometrics screening.   USRAP is implemented outside of the U.S. in what are called the Resettlement Support Centers (RSCs).
  3. If approved, applicants will have to undergo an extensive and thorough interview conducted by USCIS specially trained officers.
  4. If applicant passes the interview, they are prepared for yet another evaluation.
  5. These applicants have to pass the evaluation, background check and biometrics screening at the port of entry, through TECS, a highly sophisticated screening system at every U.S. port of entry to test applicants of their possibility to be security risks if admitted into the country.

Various agencies are involved in this whole process. These are the Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, FBI and Interpol. They are all working towards preserving and ensuring national security.

The solution is not to stop the flow of refugees into the country. What would US history be without refugees? The more prominent ones are scientist Albert Einstein (theory of relativity); Madeleine Korbel Albright, former secretary of state; and Gloria Stefan, Queen of Latin Pop.

Do not be overwhelmed by fear but always be vigilant. We should not forget the little boy from Syria who drowned while trying to escape his country ravaged by terror and war.