The Obama administration and the Department for Homeland Security admitted this week that ISIS militants may try to infiltrate the Syrian refugee program to enter America.
“We do have to be concerned about the possibility that a terrorist organization may seek to exploit our refugee resettlement process,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told reporters. “This is true of this country, that’s true of every other country that accepts refugees.”
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Johnson’s comments came just prior to a Fox News’ report that more than 102,000 Syrians have become legal-permanent U.S. residents since 2012. The U.S. has also revoked more than 122,000 foreign-national visas since 2001, including 9,500 because of the threat of terrorism.
Michele Thoren Bond, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, told Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, during a House Oversight Committee meeting on Thursday that officials did not know what happened to those individuals, the network reported.
“The sheer number of people arriving on all kinds of visas and with green cards, and possibly U.S. citizenship, makes it impossible for our counterterrorism authorities to keep track of them all, much less prevent them from carrying out attacks or belatedly try to deport them,” Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies told Fox Thursday.
Obama has framed concerns by Republican officials and presidential candidates as fear-mongering. He also used a naturalization ceremony in Washington on Wednesday to liken Syrian migrants to persecuted Jews under Germany’s Nazi regime.
“In the Syrian refugee of today, we should see the Jewish refugee of World War 2,” Obama told 31 new Americans at the National Archives.
The president’s comments came in conjunction with the arrest of two terror suspects in the Austrian city of Salzburg. The men, who authorities suspect of being linked to the Paris, France, terror attacks that killed 130 on Nov. 13, were hiding at a refugee center.
“Two people who arrived from the Middle East were arrested at the weekend in accommodation for refugees on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization,” Robert Holzleitner, a spokesman for the Salzburg prosecutor’s office, said, Reuters reported.
Republicans have essentially said Obama’s devotion to the Syrian refugee program defies logic. ISIS has made no secret of using it as a Trojan horse, and 14 Americans were killed Dec. 2 in San Bernardino, California, by Islamic radicals.
One of the San Bernardino terrorists, 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik, even pledged allegiance to ISIS on one of her Facebook pages.
Malik and her husband, 28-year-old Syed Rizwan Farook, died in a shootout with police hours after their attack on a center for those with developmental disabilities.
“I mean this respectfully to the secretary, but, duh,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, told Fox News Wednesday of Johnson’s latest statements on ISIS. “I mean, this is obvious that they can infiltrate this way. They have said it in social media posts, they obviously want to attack us here at home. This is quite obvious.”
Obama, unfazed by criticism, told Americans there were no “specific and credible” threats while speaking Thursday at the National Counterterrorism Center in Tysons Corner, Virginia. He also reiterated the argument that terror in the name of Islam should be viewed as an aberration and an act divorced from the religion as a whole.
“ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death. They account for a tiny fraction of more than one billion Muslims around the world.”