We are told time and again that there is no reason to be concerned about the 10,000 refugees the Obama administration wants to admit from war-torn Syria. White House officials ensure us we have a ‘very robust vetting procedures’ in place ready to handle the influx. And our worries are openly mocked by the president: “Apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion.”
But before we throw up our hands and take the Obama administration at their word, let’s consider our country’s actual track record on screening.
The State Department admitted to Congress last week that it had revoked the visas of 9,500 individuals since 2001 who were believed to have either engaged in terrorist activities or were associated with a terrorist organization. Think about what that means: Nearly 10,000 people considered too dangerous to enter the United States because of suspected terrorist activity or association were mistakenly granted visas to lawfully enter the country. They successfully penetrated our defenses, beat our screening system and got their hands on U.S. visas.
Worse still, after officials caught their mistake and revoked the visas after the fact, they lost track of the visa holders. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, pressed Michele Thoren Bond, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, to explain what had happened to the 9,500. She replied: “I don’t know.” […]
That’s bad enough. But the story gets worse.
An examination of State Department records by American Enterprise Institute researcher Justin Lang found that since 2001, the State Department had denied visas to just 2,231 individuals because the applicant was suspected of terrorist ties or activity. Yet during that same period, the State Department granted U.S. visas to 9,500 people who it later figured out posed a terrorist threat — and had to go back and retroactively revoke those individuals’ visas.
And Thiessen points out that these are just the ones we know about.
Remember that Tashfeen Malik, who murdered 14 people in San Bernardino with her husband, had a visa, as did the 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Abdulmutallab’s visa wasn’t even revoked even after his father warned U.S. officials about his son’s “potential radicalization.”
Comforting, isn’t it?
Despite assurances to the contrary, our screening system is deeply flawed. Heck, the administration won’t even let Homeland Security officials screen foreign visa applicants’ social media accounts. Until a truly robust vetting system is in place, Republicans ought not give up on the fight against opening our doors to unknown refugees.