Donald Trump’s indefinite ban on resettling Syrian refugees is not only a shining model of moral cowardice, it’s also premised on a falsehood that’s every bit as egregious and readily debunked as his claims that he won the popular vote or that God parted the clouds for his inauguration speech.
Throughout the campaign, Trump claimed that resettling refugees, especially from Syria, in the United States posed dangers. Calling Syrians fleeing the bloodshed we helped create a potential “Trojan Horse,” Trump repeatedly claimed, as he put it at a campaign stop in Rhode Island last spring, that “we don’t know anything about them. We don’t know where they come from, who they are. There’s no documentation. We have our incompetent government people letting ’em in by the thousands, and who knows, who knows, maybe it’s ISIS.”
But nothing could be further from reality, says Rebecca Hamlin, an assistant professor of legal studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and author of Let Me Be a Refugee: Administrative Justice and the Politics of Asylum in the United States, Canada, and Australia. “Refugees are the most carefully vetted visa category out there. They already go through a process that can take up to two years.”
In an interview for my show, Politics and Reality Radio, Hamlin described the process:
First, what happens is the United Nations high commissioner for refugees goes through its very careful and thorough screening process, trying to understand what circumstances led the person to try to seek asylum or refuge. Once they’ve gone through their clearance process, they designate a set of people who they recommend to the United States for resettlement. Then we begin our own vetting process, which includes high-level security clearance. It includes medical checks. It even includes a cultural orientation.
Our refugee program really puts a lot of priority on families, small children, the elderly. Of the just under 2,000 Syrian refugees we’ve taken in over the past few years, 48 percent of those are minors. They are under 18 years old. A good percentage are also elderly people. The remaining, many of them are the mothers of the children that we’re talking about. Really, the most vulnerable people are the ones that are prioritized.
In 2015, when congressional Republicans passed legislation that would have blocked virtually all Syrian refugees, a State Department spokesperson said that only 2 percent of them were “military-aged males” traveling without family. “Our emphasis is on admitting the most vulnerable Syrians—particularly survivors of violence and torture, those with severe medical conditions, and women and children—in a manner that is consistent with U.S. national security,” he said.