Talking Points: The Syrian Refugee Crisis

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    TalkingPoints:TheSyrianRefugeeCrisisTheSyrianrefugeecrisis

    TherearemorethanfourmillionregisteredSyrianrefugeesanumberthatisexpectedtoriseto4.2millionbytheendof2015.Morethanthreemillionoftheserefugeesarewomenandchildren.

    AsofApril2015,750,000(57%)ofSyrianrefugeechildrenareoutofschoolduetotheconflict.

    Inadditiontothenumberofrefugees,atleast7.6millionpeoplehavebeendisplacedwithinSyria.Withoutassistance,internallydisplacedpeopleoftenbecomerefugees.Ethnicandreligiousminoritiesareespeciallyatrisk.

    ItisillegalinJordan,Egypt,andmosthostcountriesintheregionforrefugeestowork.Educationalopportunitiesaregreatlylimited.Whilesomechildrenareabletotakepartininformaleducationandprimaryschoolprograms,therearefewopportunitiesforrefugeeyouthtoattendsecondaryorhighereducation.

    Responsibilityforprotectingrefugees

    Refugeesneedsafety,andEuropemorethaneverneedstostepupandcoordinatethereceptionandregistrationofarrivingrefugeestoensurethatsecurityconcernsandneedsforprotectionarebeingmetsimultaneously.

    Inparallel,theUnitedStatesmustdoitsshare,evenintheaftermathoftheParisattacks.

    Withoutacomprehensivecollaborativeresponsewithburden-sharingagreementsinplace,EuropewillnotbesafefromISISthreatsofinfiltration.

    Themoralandhumanrightsstand

    TheUnitedStatesshoulddemonstratemoralcourage.TheutterdisregardforhumanlifeshouldprovideourleaderswithevenmoreimpetustohelptheSyrianpeoplefleeingandsoinneedofinternationalprotection.Thedefinitionofmoralcourageistoresistallowingfeartooverwhelmourhumanity.

    Wemustspeakouttostoptherisingwavesofanti-MuslimandantiSyrianrefugeesentimentsoccurringintheUnitedStatesandglobally.

    Fomentingorexploitinganti-refugeeandanti-Muslimsentimentisnotthewaytocombatterrorism.

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    Terrorism

    Refugeesarenotterrorists.WemustrecognizethatrefugeesfromSyria,Yemen,andelsewhereintheMiddleEasthavebeenattemptingtoescapeextremistviolence.Theyarenottheparticipantsandperpetrators.

    Rejectingrefugeeswillmakeuslesssafe.Ignoringtheplightofrefugees,whocanbepotentialallies,anddenyingthemsafehavenwilldrivethembacktoSyria.TheretheywillfacethedangerousregimeofBasharal-Assadthattheyfledinthefirstplace.Somerefugees,inadesperatesearchforanysafety,willseekoutISISasanallyagainstAssad.

    TheParisattacksareanexampleofdailyterroristviolencethatalsohappenselsewhere.TheterrorismandviolencethatoccurredinParisisanexampleofthekindofviolencebeinginflicteddailyoninnocentcitizensinSyria,Yemen,andotherMiddleEastcountries.

    Traditionallawenforcementandsecurityscreeningprocesseshaveaprovenrecordofhandlingthethreatfromterroristposingasrefugees.InthewakeoftheParisattacks,U.S.agenciessaidtheywilldeepenandtightentheirrefugeeinvestigationsevenfurther.

    TheSyriancivilwarandthebarbarismofISIShavekilledmoreMuslimsthanmembersofanyotherfaith.

    Haltinganti-Muslimandanti-refugeesentiment

    PresidentObamaisleadingthecall(uusc.org/nytimesarticle)tostopdestructiveanti-MuslimandantiSyrianrefugeerallycries.

    Staytruetoourvalues.Whentestedbyaterrorattack,wemuststaytruetoourcorevalues:freedom,equality,andtherighttopursuehappiness.Wecannotallowourselvestosuccumbtotheattackersbyabandoningourprinciples.

    Nowisnotthetimetoabandonourcivilliberties.It'sthetimetoreaffirmthem.AsU.S.residents,weshouldreaffirmthefreedomofallpeopletoworshipanyreligion,toassemble,tospeakfreely,andtonotbeafraid.Wecannotallowtheseattackerstoprovokearesponsethattakesawaywhatwemostholddear.Weallhavetherighttoholdconversationsintheprivacyofourhomeswithoutthegovernmentlisteninginonconversations.

    Wemustsupportanddefendtherightsofallpeople,evenaswegrieveforParis.HatecrimesandthreatsagainstMuslim,Arab,andSouthAsianAmericansarealreadyatthehighesttheyhavebeensince9/11.

    Wehavearesponsibilitytospeakupandchallengerhetoricthatsinglesothersoutbasedsolelyontheirreligionorheritage;tostandupfortherights

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    ofMuslim,Arab,andSouthAsianAmericanswhentheycomeunderattack;andtorejectthosewhoseektoexploitthistragedyforpoliticalgain.

    Thereisatemptation,whenstruckbyterrororbygrief,tolashoutatanyonepresumedtobeanenemy.ButrefugeesseekingtoescapefromterribleviolenceshouldnotbeblamedfortheactionsofthemurderersinParisandourMuslimAmericanneighborsshouldnotbesubjecttoprejudiceandviolence.

    UUSC'sresponse

    UUSCisaddressingcriticalneedsduringtheSyrianrefugeecrisis(uusc.org/refugeeresponse),workingwithpartnersthroughoutEuropeandtheMiddleEasttosupportrefugeesanddelivermuch-neededassistance.

    ThebestchanceforpreventingdevastatingactsofterrorlikethosethattookplaceinParisistoactdecisivelyandcooperativelyaspartofacommunityofnationswithintheframeworkofinternationallawtorootoutterrorismandworkforjusticeathomeandabroad.

    AsUUSCjoinedtheworldinmourningtheParistragedyanddecryingtheheinousviolence,itquicklycalledontheUnitedStatesnottolessenorhaltitsresettlementofSyrianrefugees.UUSCanditssupportersareadvocatingstronglyagainstcongresspeopleandgovernorsstatingtheirintentionstoclosedoorstoSyrianrefugees.

    Refugeeresettlement

    TheUnitedNationsHighCommissionerforRefugees(UNHCR)hasmadeanappealforresettlementof130,000Syrianrefugeesworldwidein20142016.

    TheUnitedStateshastraditionallyacceptedatleasthalfofallUNHCRreferralsforanygivenpopulation.Inordertoupholdthistradition,theUnitedStatesshouldresettleatleast65,000Syrianrefugeesbytheendof2016.

    AsofJune2015,UNHCRhassubmitted13,586refugeestotheUnitedStatesforresettlementconsideration.Thatdoesnotmeantheyhavebeenaccepted,processedbytheUnitedStates,andresettledinU.S.communities

    Sofarin2015,theUnitedStateshasresettled909Syrianrefugees,withacumulativetotalofonly1,114sincethebeginningoftheconflictinSyria.Thisincludes236women,461childrenundertheageof14,and138youthbetweentheagesof14and20.

    SeveralEuropeancountrieshaveacceptedfarmoreSyrianrefugeesthantheUnitedStates.Mostnotably,Germanyhascommittedtoaccepting

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    35,000refugeesthroughacombinedprogramofhumanitarianadmissionandindividualsponsorship,inadditiontoSyrianasylumseekers.Inproportiontoeachcountryspopulation,thiswouldbeakintotheUnitedStatesacceptingmorethan138,000Syrianrefugees.

    LegalrefugeeswithintheUnitedStatescanbecomeandareurgedtoquicklybecomeself-sufficientcontributorstotheU.S.societyandeconomyasworking,taxpayingcitizensandtolearnEnglishandattendschool.

    U.S.refugeeresettlementauthorityandprocess

    U.S.refugeeresettlementisundertheauthorityoftheU.S.DepartmentofStateandcoordinatedbetweentheU.S.DepartmentofHealthandHumanServices'OfficeofRefugeeResettlement(ORR),theU.S.DepartmentofHomelandSecurity,andtheAdministrationforChildrenandFamilies.

    RefugeeswhoentertheUnitedStatesthroughitsRefugeeResettlementProgram(USRP)mustfirstbereferredbyUNHCRorbytheU.S.embassyinthecountryofasylum.Afamilyisusuallyreferredtogetherasasinglegroup.

    TheU.S.DepartmentofState'sBureauforPopulation,Refugees,andMigration(PRM)overseestheU.S.resettlementprogram.TheStateDepartmentdevelopsapplicationcriteriaandrefugeeadmissionceilings,anditpresentseligiblecasestoadivisionoftheDepartmentofHomelandSecurity(DHS),theU.S.CitizenshipandImmigrationServices(USCIS),foradjudication.

    RefugeeswhomeettheUSRPcriteriaforapplicationareinterviewedbyaUSCISofficerwhotravelstothecountryofasyluminwhichtherefugeesareresiding.TheU.S.DepartmentofStatethencontractsresettlementand/ornongovernmentalorganizationstoassistrefugeeswhomayneedhelppreparingtheirextensiveresettlementapplicationforms.TheUSCISofficerdecideswhethertheapplicantisarefugeeasdefinedunderU.S.law.

    InthisrigorousU.S.procedure,anindividual'sdesignationasarefugeebyUNHCRdoesnotguaranteeadmissiontotheU.S.refugeeprogram.

    RefugeeswhoseapplicationsforU.S.resettlementreceiveUSCISapprovalarematchedwithaU.S.resettlementorganizationthatwillfacilitatetheirresettlementtotheUnitedStates.

    U.S.statesandrefugeeresettlement

    Statescannotpreventresettlementofrefugeesintheirstatesorpreventrefugeemigrationfromonestatetoanother.Thelegalauthoritytodetermine

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    groupandindividualrefugeeresettlementandlocationsforrefugeeswithintheUnitedStatesisunderfederaljurisdictionanddoesnotresidewiththestates,northeirgovernorsorlegislativebodies.

    States,however,mayexpresstheirwishnottoacceptcertainrefugeegroups.WhentheUnitedStatesisarrangingwithinternationalbodiessuchasUNHCRtoacceptrefugeegroupsfromcertaincountries,statesmayvoicetheirconcernsandrequests.

    Insomeinstances,theninevoluntaryU.S.agencieswhoresettlerefugeesandtherespectivelocalrefugeeresettlementaffiliatesorofficestheyworkwithandundercertaincircumstancestheU.S.entitiesjointlycollaboratinginselectingcommunitiesforparticularrefugeegroupsmaypursuethestates'concerns,andtherefugeeswillbereassignedtoother,morewelcomingcommunitiesintheUnitedStates.

    PreventionofterrorisminU.S.refugeeresettlement

    U.S.refugeesdontbecometerrorists.ThehistoryoftheU.S.refugeeprogramdemonstratesthatthelengthyandextensivevettingthatallrefugeesmustundergoisaneffectivedeterrentforterrorists.

    Since1980,theUnitedStateshasinvitedinmillionsofrefugees,includinghundredsofthousandsfromtheMiddleEast.NotonehascommittedanactofterrorismwithintheUnitedStates.

    RefugeestatusisthesinglemostdifficultwaytocometotheUnitedStates.Itisnotafasttrackwaytoenter.Itmakesnosenseforaterroristtotrytousetheresettlementprocessforanattack.Processingtimesforrefugeeresettlementaverage1824monthsandcantakeaslongasthreetofouryears,dependingonsecurityconcerns.

    TobecomearefugeeintheUnitedStatesrequiresamulti-stagevettingprocessandonlyafterreceivingU.N.designationbytrainedofficersinthefield.TheU.S.screensrefugeespriortoadmissioninthiscountry,whichmeansterroristsandthosemostlikelytobecomeinvolvedinterrorismcanbeweededout,acceptingonlythemostvulnerable.

    AllrefugeesundergothoroughandrigoroussecurityscreeningspriortoarrivingintheUnitedStates.Thoseincludemultiplebiographicandidentityinvestigations;FBIbiometricchecksfingerprintsandphotographs;in-depth,in-personinterviewsbyspecializedandwell-trainedDepartmentofHomelandSecurityofficers;medicalscreenings;andotherchecksbyU.S.domesticandinternationalintelligenceagencies,includingtheNationalCounterterrorismCenter.

    Ifthefactspresentedinthesescreeningsareproblematic,refugeesarereferredforadditionalsecurityclearanceprocedures.Onlyafterallthesesecurityandmedicalcheckshavebeenreceivedandanalyzedcanarefugee

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    beadmittedtotheUnitedStates,thereforesomeindividualsmaybeonholdindefinitely.

    MandatorysupervisoryreviewsareinplacetomaintainthesecurityoftheU.S.refugeeresettlementprogram.Thosereviewsincludealldecisions,randomcaseassignment,interagencynationalsecurityteams,traineddocumentexperts,forensictestingofdocuments,andinterpretermonitoring.

    OthermigrationchannelsareeasiertoexploitthantheU.S.refugeeprocess.Inotherwords:non-refugeeshavecarriedoutallterroristattacksoverthepast35years.ThatmeanstheyusedothermeanstoarriveintheUnitedStates.Allofthe9/11hijackersusedstudentortouristvisas.Thesevisasaremucheasierandfastertoobtainthanrefugeestatus.

    QuotesfromPresidentBarackObama

    ThepeoplewhoarefleeingSyriaarethemostharmedbyterrorism;theyarethemostvulnerableasaconsequenceofcivilwarandstrife,Mr.Obamasaid.Headded:Wedonotcloseourheartstothesevictimsofsuchviolenceandsomehowstartequatingtheissueofrefugeeswiththeissueofterrorism.

    Withoutnaminghim,Mr.ObamasingledoutacommentbyformerGov.JebBushofFlorida,oneoftheRepublicansseekingtosucceedhim,forsuggestingtheUnitedStatesfocusspecialattentiononChristianrefugees.Thatsshameful,Mr.Obamasaid.ThatsnotAmerican.Itsnotwhoweare.Wedonthavereligiousteststoourcompassion.

    UUSCthanksitsfellowrefugeeresettlementandhumanrightspartnersandcoalitionmembersfortheircontributionstothesetalkingpoints.