Utah to assign a detective to watch over refugees

AP News
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Posted: Dec 07, 2015 8:07 PM

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) — Utah will assign a state police detective to watch over refugees coming from Syria and elsewhere, the head of the state police force said Monday.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires said the position is designed to both monitor for possible problems with refugees and connect them with police help if they become crime victims.

The investigator will join the team of state workers who help refugees find work and housing after coming to Utah. The move comes after Utah's governor ordered a review of the vetting process for refugees following the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris.

Squires wants the state investigator to help refugees from all countries by explaining things like U.S. legal process and how to get a driver's licenses, as well as monitor for signs of trouble, from difficulty acclimating to possible radicalization.

"We know that ISIS is very effective right now at using social media and being able to reach out to individuals and try to convince them, 'If you can't come and joins us in the jihad, to go and act where you're at,'" he said.

Though few such cases have become public in Utah, FBI Director James Comey has said that the bureau had open investigations regarding the threat posed by the Islamic State in all 50 states — 900 such investigations overall.

Squires has discussed his findings with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, and wants to assign a detective in the next few weeks. He envisions the position as a law enforcement liaison to the refugee community, something that he said has been tried in a few other cities but is still relatively rare.

Squires said he's reviewed the federal vetting process refugees undergo before entering the country and found it to be comprehensive, with little for state authorities to add since they don't generally have access to overseas records.

He decided the state could take more proactive steps, however, after refugees arrive.

"Some of the refugees that come here do come from more vulnerable backgrounds," Squires said. He added that they can also be targeted in the U.S. over race or religion. "I want this to be a permanent opportunity, as opposed to just an occasional contact."

There are only 12 Syrian refugees living in Utah, but officials expect hundreds more will be resettled in the state after the United States announced plans to take in an additional 10,000 people from Syria.

Herbert has stopped short of threatening to stop accepting people from Syria, setting him apart from a number of his fellow Republican governors who declared they would not accept them after the discovery of a Syrian passport found near one of the attackers in Paris.