Last week the US State Department held its annual hearing to determine the number of refugees to be resettled in FY2012. I gather it was livelier than usual for several reasons (further news in the near future). But, now I see that Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) had someone in attendance.
The State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) held a public meeting on U.S. refugee policy May 12 in Arlington, Va. The Investigative Project on Terrorism attended the meeting (held in conjunction with the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services) after a veteran DHS official privately expressed concern that the United States has no idea whether it is admitting Somali jihadists as “refugees.”
This United States admitted tens of thousands of Somalis into the United States since 2002, the official says. But it is impossible to verify their identity because Somalia has long been a state without a functioning government and it does not keep usable birth records. If only a miniscule percentage of these people turn out to have been involved with al-Shabaab or other extremist groups, the United States may have admitted dozens of potential terrorists, the official says.
The hearing was supposed to chart the government’s course on refugee policy for the coming fiscal year but it did not do so. In fact, there was virtually no testimony at all about al-Shabaab.
IPT raised the question of security:
But the security challenges involved in admitting refugees to the United States were barely mentioned until the final 10 minutes of the public meeting, when the IPT asked what the government was doing to keep jihadists out.
Refugees are carefully vetted and go through many security reviews, said David Robinson, deputy secretary of State for PRM. Barbara Strack, chief of DHS’s Refugee Affairs Division, Refugee Asylum & International Affairs Directorate, made essentially the same point, but said she couldn’t provide any details without compromising intelligence secrets.
That was the extent of the discussion pertaining to refugee policy and terrorism.
IPT has done good work reporting on Somali/Al Shabaab terror concerns, but might want to know a few more facts to fully understand the complete picture. First, the number of Somalis entering the US through the refugee program is over 100,000 now, and because of rampant fraud in the family reunification program (mostly from Africa) the State Department closed that portion of the program for two years.
Somalis are also coming across the border illegally, here, but I think the bigger problem will be in the asylum portion of the refugee program that was not a subject of the hearings last week. See my report here about Somalis (and others from Muslim countries) arriving on our borders and seeking asylum (I believe with the help of NGOs, some of which were in that hearing looking for more federal funding). The funny thing (if there is something funny) is that some of those Somali asylum seekers claim they are running from Al Shabaab in the Horn of Africa. But, how is some poor “refugee” getting up to $10.000 to pay his or her traffickers? That is the question.