According to Donald Trump, 200k Syrian refugees are headed to the U.S.?
Presidential candidate Donald Trump made headlines again stating that the U.S. will admit 200,000 refugees from Syria. The reality is that such an endeavor could only be completed over a span involving the next three or four President(s) terms.
The process involves the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services. The government also collaborates with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – the U.N. agency that refers refugees to the U.S. – NGO’s like the International Organization for Migration, as well as national, state and local groups that provide on-the-ground assistance to those approved to resettle in the U.S..
Presently there is no UNHCR capability in Syria, the office in Demascus has been closed for several years. Nor is their a functioning Dept of State refugee office in Syria. A link to the Syrian embassy is attached. http://damascus.usembassy.gov/visas/political-asylum-and-the-united-states-refugee-program.html The U.S. DOS refugee admissions program can process Syrian refugee applicants at offices located in Turkey, Greece, and, Germany. The UNHCR admissions program located in Amman, Jordan is for Syrian refugees who will ultimately settle in numerous countries, including the U.S..
The application process is an individualized one, involving potential arrivals going through extensive background / security / health screenings to ensure they are who they say they are, that they are truly fleeing persecution and that they will resettle peacefully in the U.S.. The security check in particular is a rigorous vetting process involving an in-person interview with a DHS representative. (Our recent experience with background checks in the region is that each case can take 6-12 months or more.)
After completion of the background checks, the applicant must still be interviewed to determine that he has a “well-founded” fear based on one of the 5 grounds for asylum: political, race, nationality, religious, or member of a particular social group. Only after these checks are completed, and the applicants are successfully deemed refugees, do nonprofit resettlement agencies begin arrangements for placing people in specific locations. According to former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Doris Meissner in a recent U.S. News interview, the U.S. is out of practice when it comes to responding to a massive refugee crisis.
“The ability that the United States has to actually bring people into the country as refugees or as immigrants, in the post-911 environment, is much more complex and takes a longer period of time.” Ms. Meissner suggests that handling 10,000 refugee cases in one year is overly ambitious unless changes are made to the process.
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