WASHINGTON - The White House says 10,000 Syrian refugees it plans to resettle in the United States in the next year are subject to the most rigorous and highest level of security checks.
According to the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, all refugees go through four separate security screenings prior to their arrival on U.S. soil.
The organization is responding to overwhelming concerns and questions after a Syrian refugee reportedly received help at a Catholic Charities facility in Louisiana, and the person is now believed to be in Washington D.C.
“Our country has always had open borders and I think we need to continue that,” said Tammie Stouter. “I do think we should be able to do something. I just don't know what.”
Stouter is a D.C. resident.
“Our country was started on refugees and if we close the doors on all of that, then what have we become?” said Stouter.
She shared mixed emotions and questions about accepting Syrian refugees and she’s not alone.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington says if a Syrian refugee is here in the U.S., it means they were approved by the U.S. Department of State.
Once here, they are referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which contracts with several aid agencies nationwide. Catholic Charities is not one nor do they track Syrian refugees who they help, according to the organization’s spokesperson.
The White House says the stringent security screening regime includes biographic screening that crosschecks a refugee’s name and date of birth.
Screening also includes checking finger prints, confirming stories, events and locations. It’s all vetted against law enforcement and intelligence community databases.
The Syrian refugees then reportedly go through additional forms of security screening, which is classified information.
“It is a difficult topic,” said Nancy Khan. “I would hate to be in the decision making seat about that. It certainly has an impact on all of us.”
“It's kind of intimidating just being as I work down here downtown and just hearing about it all over the social media and catching the train,” said Kevin Barnes. “It's just scary, intimidating.”
On its blog, the White House says the administration’s emphasis is on admitting the most vulnerable Syrians, including survivors of violence, torture and those with severe medical conditions.
The Refugee Resettlement Program takes at least 18 months to complete and involves the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center and the Department of Homeland Security among other agencies.