Faced with more than half of the nation’s governors announcing their opposition to bringing in Syrian refugees following the Paris attacks, senior Obama administration officials sought Tuesday to assuage the country’s national security concerns—and remind those who want to shut down their states’ borders that the resettlement program is administered at the federal level.
In a background call open to members of the press, the officials said Syrian refugees undergo additional screening in an already-thorough vetting process that involves interviews and biometric checks from intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. The U.S. refugee-resettlement process takes, on average, 18 to 24 months.
"This is a federal program carried out under the authority of federal law, and refugees arriving in the U.S. are protected by the Constitution,” said one senior administration official. “So while state and local governments have an important consultative role to play in the resettlement of refugees, the resettlement program is, as you’re hearing, administered by the federal government."
The Obama administration announced in September that the U.S. would take in an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees (and 85,000 total) next year to alleviate the horror from a war that has lasted more than four years. Of the millions of Syrians displaced, the U.S. has taken in only about 2,000 such refugees. It wasn’t until the recent Paris terrorist attacks that 27 governors began their protest, which has spread to the Capitol, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan called Tuesday for a “pause” in the refugee program.