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Some terrorists, including two al Qaeda affiliates who were living in Kentucky at the time of their indictment, have been able to enter the U.S. legally through a resettlement program for “vulnerable” refugees.
The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) is a joint venture between U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the State Department. Together, the two agencies are responsible for determining which refugees are granted USRAP resettlement consideration. This is done by way of face-to-face interviews with the applicants. The majority of refugee referrals received are from the United Nations. In order to qualify for the program a refugee must:
If an applicant meets all criteria, the U.N. has advised that the refugee should be granted permanent residence status and given rights akin to those provided to nationals.
A myriad of serious issues exists in this program. USCIS Refugee Affairs Division Chief, Barbara Strack, testified at a congressional hearing focused on terrorist exploitation of refugee programs and the significant security vulnerabilities within her division. Strack told the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “has been working closely with interagency partners to improve, refine, and streamline the security vetting regime for refugee applicants and for other immigration categories.”
What the agency would like to avoid are more incidents like the Kentucky case in which two Iraqi nationals, who were given refugee status under USRAP, were federally indicted for attempting to send weapons and money to al Qaeda in Iraq. The two were also indicted for conspiracy to kill a U.S. national abroad. Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi pleaded guilty to the charges and are scheduled to be sentenced early next year.
At the December4th hearing on terroristexploitation of refugeeprograms, it was revealed that the Kentucky case was not a one-time glitch in the system. Chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, Patrick Meehan (R-PA), voiced some concerns, testifying that the “threat posed by refugees with ties to al Qaeda is much broader than was previously believed.” This is basically a reiteration of FBI Director Robert Mueller’s testimony, last year, before a House Intelligence Committee in which he admitted having ongoing concerns about individuals who may have been resettled here in the United States that have some association with al Qaeda in Iraq. In addition to that, immigration officials have given the FBI the names of roughly 300 Iraqi refugees, for further investigation.
USRAP has assisted in the relocation of millions of refugees over the decades, but has come under scrutiny in recent years due to its vast size (USRAP admits approximately three times the number of refugees as the rest of the developed world–combined), ineffective security measures and the acquiescence of the U.S. to the U.N. in determining who is admitted to the program. Additionally, accurate background checks are not easy to obtain for refugees admitted from countries without reliable government records.
According to an investigation, “common criminals, war criminals, international fugitives and terrorists have all used the USRAP and its related asylum provisions for entry into the United States.” It was also discovered that “bribery of U.N. officials is commonly reported among those attempting to secure refugee admission to the United States.”
CIS Fellow, Don Barnett, in his report titled “Refugee Resettlement – A System Badly in Need of Review” has outlined the main issues the resettlement program needs to address:
Let’s hope that the indictment of the two Iraqi nationals and the investigation into and hearing on the exploitation of the resettlement program will serve as a wake-up call for USRAP–and a major overhaul will ensue.