Is US refugee vetting process sufficient? Kentucky fuels concerns.

The 2011 arrest of two Iraqi refugees who had settled in Kentucky has added faces to the fears of politicians wary of allowing Syrian asylum seekers to settle in the United States.

Daily News/AP
Iraqi refugee Waad Ramadan Alwan (l.) of Bowling Green, who is facing terrorism charges, arrives at the William H. Natcher Federal Courthouse for a detention hearing in Bowling Green, Ky., June 8, 2011. From a Kentucky college town, Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, Iraqi refugees, plotted to send sniper rifles, Stinger missiles and money to Al Qaeda operatives waging an insurgency back home against US troops. The scheme was foiled and both are in prison, but the case has left jitters about whether terrorists might slip in among Syrian refugees resettling in the US.

More than half of US governors have said they do not want Syrian refugees to settle in their states because of worries that terrorist sleeper cells could enter the country under false pretenses and plan an attack.

Since 129 people were killed in Paris on Friday, many in the United States are increasingly on edge around a plan to allow 10,000 refugees to enter the country as they escape years of war.

French authorities said they believe at least one suspect left Syria in October and made his way to Paris among thousands of Syrians.

A recent poll shows that 52 percent of Americans consider countries that allow Syrian refugees to enter as not safe. Despite the attacks last week, France said it will allow 30,000 refugees to resettle

In the US, some have pointed to the 2011 arrest of two Iraqi refugees, who police said were planning to send missiles and money to Al Qaeda. The men entered the country through a program for displaced Iraqis, whose lives were upended by a years-long war unilaterally launched by the United States.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he would push for legislation to stop a plan to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country, citing a Syrian passport allegedly found on a suicide-bomber killed in Paris. Germany later said the passport was probably fake.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, also of Kentucky, said the vetting process is not sufficient enough.

“And so that's why I, for one, don't feel particularly comforted by the assertion that our government can vet these refugees,” the Associated Press reported.

But those views stand in contradiction to the extensive screening process that was reinforced in the years following the attacks of 9/11.

Refugee resettlements can take more than three years beginning with a screening process through the US State Department at embassies around the world. According to the Economist, refugees have their histories checked and go through an FBI biometrics check, in-person interviews, and medical screenings.

A non-partisan think-tank, The Migration Policy Institute, told the AP that there have been just three incidents since 9/11 where refugees were arrested for planning attacks, including the two Iraqi men in Kentucky. More than 780,000 refugees have been resettled during the last 15 years, including roughly 2,200 Syrians.

Christian Beckner, deputy director of a homeland security program at George Washington University, said the government has improved the vetting process since two Iraqis were arrested.

"Efforts were made to improve the screening system as a result of this case, which will be helpful for screening Syrian refugees,” Mr. Beckner told AP.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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