**PSA: Refugees already undergo VERY RIGOROUS screening.**
Recently, there’s been some [apparent] confusion about the process refugees go through to enter the United States. Here’s the breakdown, step by step, of what a refugee has to do before she can enter the United States as a refugee. (The process can take YEARS – it isn’t some slap-dash, hop-on-a-plane, here-I-am chain of events.) Obviously, this is a list that does not include the nitty-gritty of each step. I’ve included some sources below if you’re interested in reading up on the particulars.
(1) Register with the United Nations;
(2) *Interview* with the United Nations;
(3) Be granted refugee status by the United Nations;
(4) A referral for resettlement in the United States (this involves the UN making an active decision to send someone to the US. Only the most vulnerable people are referred and this number accounts for less than ONE PERCENT of refugees worldwide);
(5) Interview with the State Department;
(6) Go through a background check;
(7) Additional, higher-level, more rigorous background check for some;
(8) Second/Third background check, depending on whether the higher-level check was done (refugee’s name is run through law enforcement and intelligence databases for terrorist/criminal history. The third background check began in 2008 for Iraqis but has since been expanded to all refugees ages 14-65).
(9) FINGERPRINT screening, photo taken;
(10) SECOND fingerprint screening;
(11) THIRD fingerprint screening (the fingerprints are screened against FBI and Homeland Security databases, which have watchlist information, past immigration encounters (including whether the refugee had previously applied for a visa at a US embassy). They are also checked against fingerprints collected by the Department of Defense during operations in Iraq);
(12) The case is then reviewed at US immigration headquarters;
(13) Some cases are then referred for additional review (Syrian refugees, for example, must undergo two additional steps: Each application is reviewed by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee specialist. Then, cases with “national security indicators” are given to the Homeland Security Department’s fraud detection unit);
(14) Extensive, IN-PERSON interview with a Homeland Security officer;
(15) Homeland Security must give its approval;
(16) Screening for contagious diseases;
(17) Cultural orientation classes;
(18) Matched with an American resettlement agency;
(19) A MULTI-AGENCY SECURITY CHECK before leaving for the United States (this is due to the long amount of time between the refugee’s initial screening and departure, JUST IN CASE anything has cropped up in the interim);
(20) A final security check at an American airport.
If you think refugees are coming over here carte blanche, you need to think again.
- US Department of State
- Department of Homeland Security
- [Archived] White House site
- LA Times article
- Time article