EXTREME vetting

Refugees have been constantly in the news lately with Americans’ irrational fear of terrorism and President Trump’s executive orders that sound like (though definitely are NOT, because that would be SAD!) Muslim bans. Refugees are dangerous! How do we know a terrorist won’t pretend to be one to infiltrate our country?! It’s all Obama’s fault that Syria and ISIS happened and look at what those refugees have done to poor Europe!

Let me remind you all of a few (not alternative, but actual) facts.

Refugees pose NO threat and have never been perpetrators of terrorist attacks on American soil. The chance of an American being killed in a terrorist attack by a refugee in the US is 1:3.6 billion per year. For scale, only double that number, just over 7.5 billion, represents the total population of the world.

Refugees already undergo extreme vetting. The process is described HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. (Note that these four sources represent both liberal and conservative news outlets, but yet all agree on that fact.) The process can take several years, costs a lot of money, has a very low success rate, and you do not get to choose where you are resettled. A terrorist would have to be dumb to gamble on this system to “infiltrate America.”

The United States is NOT like Europe in many ways, but in particular because typically the refugees that come to the US, especially ones that we may have terrorism fears about, all have to arrive by plane. It’s not like they’re all walking overland and coming into our country through weak links like Mississippi. Sorry Mississippi, bless your heart, but you would be the Greece of America (and I don’t mean that in a “great wine and beautiful beaches” kind of way).

Nearly every person coming into the US via plane undergoes extreme vetting before even getting on a plane. I have experienced some extreme vetting myself and I am a US citizen, born and raised. So were my parents, grandparents, and nearly all great grandparents. I can trace my lineage on one side back to the Mayflower. I’m very American. As I can hear someone else saying, “I’m the most American you can get. I know how to be American and I’m the best at it. Many people are saying this.” But yet, every time I travel internationally, it’s the same story. Even before boarding a plane bound for the US:

AIRPORT STAFF: Where have you been? How long were you there? What were you doing there?

ME: Kenya, 2 weeks, working with an NGO.

AIRPORT STAFF: Who packed your luggage? Did anyone give you anything to put in it? Who have you interacted with since packing it? How many times have you blinked since arriving?

ME: I did, no one gave me anything, and besides the check-in staff, the immigration control people, and the pre-gate document control people who have all already asked me these questions, I’ve interacted with no one. Oh wait, I did buy a sandwich, so also the cashier. And 527. Wait, why is that even relevant? Bigger wait, why do I know the answer? (Just kidding, I imagined that last question, in case it wasn’t obvious.)

Then, once you pass the test and make it on the plane and land 7 hours later, it starts again:

IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Where were you, how long, and why?

ME: Kenya, 2 weeks, working with an NGO.

IMMIGRATION OFFICER: No, I didn’t mean this current trip, I see you have a passport stamp from Bangladesh in 2013. What were you doing there?

ME: Is that really relevant? Are we really going to go through my whole passport right now?

IMMIGRATION OFFICER: What sort of terrorist activities have you been engaging in recently?

ME: (Laughing on the inside… like a real terrorist would answer that question truthfully). Well, that’s a rather extreme question, but no I can’t think of any terrorist activities I’ve engaged in lately. None, Sir.

IMMIGRATION OFFICER: OK, you’re cleared to go.

ME: (Walking away to myself) Cleared to go? No “welcome home”? And then it dawned on me: I called and wished a friend in Pakistan congratulations on his marriage recently. I guess the NSA is checking our phone records after all and they now think I frequently call Pakistani terrorists.

At least they’re focusing their extreme vetting on the true terrorism risks like me – you know, because every person that has committed an act of terrorism on US soil in the past 40 years has been an American citizen, a permanent resident, or came in legally on a visa. None were refugees.

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