The process for selecting and screening refugees before resettlement in the United States has drawn increased scrutiny since the terrorist attacks in Paris.
State and local governments have an “important consultative role” in the resettlement of refugees, but the program ultimately is controlled by the federal government, according to a State Department representative. The State Department, the U.S. Department of Health Services and other agencies coordinate the placement of refugees, and the Department of Homeland Security makes decisions on admissibility after “stringent security checks.”
Individual refugees are selected for resettlement programs by the United Nations Refugee Agency, according to the United Nations website. Once the individuals are selected and recommended to a country’s resettlement program, they begin the screening process.
Refugees go through “the most intensive security screening of any travelers to the United States,” according to Simon Henshaw, a State Department official involved in refugee and migration issues.
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The process includes security checks from the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI Terrorist Screening Center, and the Departments of Homeland Security, State and Defense, Henshaw said.
Syrian refugees go through additional forms of screening, and options are being considered to enhance those evaluations, Henshaw said.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 289-137 on Nov. 19 to add FBI background checks and “individual sign-offs from three high-ranking U.S. officials,” the Associated Press reported.
President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation.