The recent Paris attacks have raised concerns regarding whether it’s safe for countries to take in Syrian refugees.

Many U.S. lawmakers are proposing to stop resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. out of fear they may be terrorists.  However, it’s important to understand that individuals must meet specific criteria in order to be granted refugee status in the U.S.

Here are some fundamental differences between refugees and regular migrants, followed by a breakdown of the vetting process:

1. What’s the Difference Between a Refugee & a Migrant?
As defined by the  1951 UN Refugee Convention: “Refugees are forced to flee because of a threat of persecution and because they lack the protection of their own country. A migrant, in comparison, may leave his or her country for many reasons that are not related to persecution, such as for the purposes of employment, family reunification or study. A migrant continues to enjoy the protection of his or her own government, even when abroad.”

The Vetting Process:
There are three main federal departments that work in the vetting and resettling of refugees:

2. SECURITY: Department of Homeland Security
They conduct pre-screening, interviews and security clearings.

3. PLACEMENT: State Department
Once refugees have received security clearance, the next step is to work with national agencies to find a place in the U.S. to relocate them.  Prior to their departure to the U.S., refugees go through cultural orientation programs to have a better idea of what their new lives will be like, what services will be available to them, and what their responsibilities will be.

4. TRANSITION: Department of Health & Human Services
From the moment they arrive in the U.S. the HHS provides case management, English classes, and job readiness and employment services to help refugees successfully transition and attain self-sufficiency.

President Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. doesn’t mean they will all come overnight. Those refugees will need to go through an intense vetting process that can take from several months to sometimes years.


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