Sen. Casey: ‘We cannot turn our backs on Syrian refugees’

FILE - U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa)

WASHINGTON (WHTM) – U.S. Sen. Robert Casey says the process for screening refugee applicants takes more than a year and is the most rigorous vetting in the world.

Casey issued a statement Tuesday amid growing concerns over the refugee screening process in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

He said the rigorous process for vetting applicants includes several in-person interviews by U.S. officials, security checks by multiple agencies, significant documentation, and a health screening. He said the process requires refugees to be vetted by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the Departments of State and Defense.

“This review process includes biometric and biographic checks, interviews by specially trained officers who scrutinize the applicant’s explanation of individual circumstances to ensure the applicant is a genuine refugee and is not known to present security concerns to the United States,” Casey said. “The process also includes an additional layer of enhanced classified screening measures for those refugees from Syria.

“In addition, the U.S. Government prioritizes admitting the most vulnerable Syrians, particularly female-headed households, children, survivors of torture, and individuals with severe medical conditions. In fact, of the 12 million Syrians displaced from their homes half are children,” he added.

Casey said if intelligence and homeland security professionals determine there’s a way to strengthen the existing process, then those appropriate steps should be taken.

“Offering asylum for refugees, whatever conflict they are fleeing, is consistent with our values and history,” he said. “We cannot turn our back on Syrian refugees. Turning them away on the basis of religion or ethnicity is inconsistent with our principles as a nation.”

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