Syrian refugees put through years of screenings

  • Friday, November 20, 2015 1:01am
  • NewsNation-World

DETROIT — Over and over, Nedal Al-Hayk and his wife traveled up to three hours by bus from their temporary home in Jordan to an office where U.S. Homeland Security officials put them in separate rooms and asked them many questions in many different ways: Where were you born? Where were your parents born? Were you part of a rebel group? Were you politically outspoken?

Finally, nearly three years after the Syrian couple fled their war-ravaged homeland, they and their two young children arrived in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, ready to start a promising new life in a new country.

“I came here to succeed and have a quality of life, not to be a hindrance to the government and the citizens of America,” the 28-year-old Al-Hayk said through a translator. He is working at a factory and studying English with hopes of pursuing the agricultural engineering degree he started in Syria. “Even if I need to start over, I’ll start over.”

As some governors, lawmakers and presidential candidates vow to block the resettlement of more Syrian refugees in the U.S. for fear that terrorists will slip into the country and carry out Paris-style attacks, those who have made it here describe an arduous screening process that they would not have undergone if they didn’t want to make America their permanent home.

“They are human beings and human beings with no home,” said Al-Hayk, who arrived in the U.S. seven months ago. “They ache to come to a country like America because they know the kinds of opportunities it grants to people.”

The Obama administration, which has announced plans to accept about 10,000 Syrians refugees in addition to the 2,500 who have settled here since 2011, disclosed new details this week about how they are investigated.

They must undergo a screening process that can take nearly three years, during which they are fingerprinted and required to submit other biometric information, subjected to criminal and terrorist background checks and put through repeated rounds of questioning about their families, friends and political activities, authorities said.

The process takes so long that experts said it would be unlikely for an extremist group to rely on a refugee program to sneak someone into the U.S. Terrorist organizations could instead send operatives to America as students or tourists or appeal to people already living in the U.S. to carry out attacks.

Fears about refugees were triggered, in part, by a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the Paris suicide attackers, though its authenticity has not been established and officials said it might have been planted to stoke fears.

Even so, the House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve legislation requiring stringent new background checks that would, in effect, suspend admissions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Oct. 2

Here’s what to expect this week.

Screenshot / Alaska Public Media’s YouTube channel 
Bob Bird, left, chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman make the case in favor of a state constitutional convention during a debate in Anchorage broadcast Thursday by Alaska Public Media.
Constitutional convention debate gets heated

Abortion, PFD factor into forum.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Faith Rogers’ loved ones, from left to right, James Rogers (father), Michelle Rogers (sister), Harmony Wentz (daughter), Maria Rogers (mother) and Mindy Voigt (friend) sit with Faith’s three dogs in their family home. Faith Rogers, 55, of Juneau was found dead along a popular trail on Wednesday, Sept. 21. Police are investigating the death as a homicide.
‘It’s shocking’: Family hopes for answers after suspicious death of loved one

“She wanted to make things beautiful, to help make people beautiful…”

People work together to raise the Xa’Kooch story pole, which commemorates the Battle of the Inian Islands. (Shaelene Grace Moler / For the Capital City Weekly)
Resilient Peoples & Place: The Xa’Kooch story pole — one step toward a journey of healing

“This pole is for the Chookaneidi, but here among us, many clans are represented…”

A bracket fungus exudes guttation drops and a small fly appears to sip one of them.( Courtesy Photo / Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Water drops on plants

Guttation drops contain not only water but also sugars, proteins, and probably minerals.

A chart shows what critics claim is poor financial performance by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, especially in subsidizing private industry projects intended to boost the state’s economy, during its 55-year existence. The chart is part of a report released Tuesday criticizing the agency. (MB Barker/LLC Erickson & Associates/EcoSystems LLC)
AIDEA’s fiscal performance fishy, critics say

Report presented by salmon industry advocates asserts state business subsidy agency cost public $10B

Police vehicles gather Wednesday evening near Kaxdigoowu Héen Dei, also known as ]]Brotherhood Bridge Trail, while investigating a homicide. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Police: Woman was walking dogs when she was killed

JPD said officers are working “around the clock” on the criminal investigation.

Most Read