MJIL Contributor

In light of the recent Syrian refugee crisis and the perceived connection between the influx of refugees and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, government officials around the world have called for stricter screening methods to ensure that resettlement does not impose undue security risks for countries granting asylum.

Within the US, the push for greater security checks has come from politicians on both the local and national level, with some state governors promising to block the admission of any Syrian refugees into their state , despite the questionable legality of such actions. The calls for greater security at the national level have been even more questionable. Newly elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has proposed additional screening measures that would require the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to certify that each potential Syrian refugee is not a security threat.

On its face, this could seem like a practical step in balancing security and humanitarian interests. However, given the screening methods already in place and the practical consequences of the proposals, these additional steps would unduly delay the resettlement process in a critical refugee crisis while providing no greater assurances of security. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees already institutes an extensive vetting process arguably more rigorous than that proposed by Ryan. This process includes multiple security and biometric checks conducted by DHS, FBI, State Department, and the National Counter Terrorism Center. Furthermore, DHS already conducts an enhanced review of Syrian cases in particular. Id. 

Ryan’s proposal adds nothing substantive to this process, as stringent review by the FBI and DHS already occurs. Instead, this proposal merely adds one more bureaucratic hurdle for a refugee, which would likely be nothing more than a rubber stamp by the DHS inspector general. This rubber stamp would provide no additional security for the United States and, in the meantime, would further delay Syrian families from resettlement. Given the severity of the refugee crisis, and given the stringent screening process already in place, Ryan’s proposal should be rejected by Congress.