Mayors in Clarkston, Atlanta speak in support of accepting Syrian refugees
This story has been updated.
In the wake of a terrorist attack in Paris that occurred over the weekend, Gov. Nathan Deal has joined with other governors in declaring the U.S. Government can’t resettle Syrian refugees in their states.
But two local mayors say they believe that’s the wrong approach. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry both support the relocation of Syrian refugees to the area.
In a press release, Deal said, “In light of the terror attacks in Paris, I’ve issued an executive order directing state agency heads to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia, Further, I call upon the Obama administration to work with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security to confirm the backgrounds of the 59 Syrian refugees recently resettled to ensure they do not pose a security threat to our citizens. Until the federal government and Congress conduct a thorough review of current screening procedures and background checks, we will take every measure available to us at the state level to ensure the safety of Georgians.”
However, the governors of these states lack the legal authority to prevent resettlement as immigration matters are handled by the federal government.
Reed told the media that the city is still open to refugees. “I don’t agree with the notion that we should completely close access to Georgia from Syrian refugees,” Reed said, according to WABE.
More than half of Clarkston’s population was born in other countries, according to U.S. Census data. Terry said his city is still keeping its doors open. He said on Facebook he is, “Still going with peace and compassion over politics on the #SyrianRefugee issue.”
He also released a detailed list of all of the background check requirements for Syrian refugees entering the country:
In case you were wondering how Syrian Refugees are “vetted” –
includes the following…
Department of Homeland Security Interviews: Refugees are interviewed by DHS-USCIS officers to determine whether or not they can be approved for resettlement to the United States. These interviews are conducted while refugees are still abroad.
Consular Lookout and Watch List check: Biographic checks are conducted against the State Department’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS)—which includes watch list information.
Security Advisory Opinions from Intelligence and Other Agencies: DHS seeks Security Advisory Opinions (SAOs) from law enforcement and intelligence communities for cases that meet certain criteria.
National Counterterrorism Center Checks with Intelligence Agency Support: Interagency checks, known as “IAC’s,” are conducted with the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) for all refugee applicants within a designated age range, regardless of nationality. In addition, expanded intelligence community support was added to the IAC process in July 2010, and recurrent vetting was added in 2015 so that any intervening derogatory information that is identified after the initial check has cleared but before the applicant has traveled to the United States will be provided to DHS.
DHS and FBI Biometric Checks: Fingerprints are screened against the vast biometric holdings of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Next Generation Identification system, and are screened and enrolled in DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT). Through IDENT, the applicant’s fingerprints are screened not only against watch list information, but also for previous immigration encounters in the United States and overseas—including cases in which the applicant previously applied for a visa at a U.S. embassy.
Department of Defense Biometric Screening: Biometric screening is also conducted through the Department of Defense (DOD) Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS). ABIS contains a variety of records, including fingerprint records captured in Iraq. ABIS screening has been expanded to refugee applicants of all nationalities who fall within the prescribed age ranges.
Enhanced Review for Syrian Cases: In addition to the many biometric and biographic checks conducted, DHS-USCIS has instituted additional review of Syrian refugee applications. Before being scheduled for interview by a DHS-USCIS officer (while the refugee is still abroad), Syrian cases are reviewed at DHS-USCIS headquarters. All cases that meet certain criteria are referred to the DHS-USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) for additional review and research. FDNS conducts open-source and classified research on referred cases and synthesizes an assessment for use by the interviewing officer. This information provides case-specific context relating to country conditions and regional activity, and is used by the interviewing officer to inform lines of inquiry related to the applicant’s eligibility and credibility. DHS-USCIS reports that FDNS engages with law enforcement and intelligence community members for assistance with identity verification and acquisition of additional information.
Additional Screening Checks on Entry: When they travel to the United States, refugees are subject to screening conducted by DHS-U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center-Passenger and the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight program prior to their admission to the United States, as is the case with all individuals traveling to the United States regardless of immigration program.