Monday, November 23, 2015

Department of Homeland Security's Approach to Refugee Immigration

Post-Cold war threats forced the United States government to change the way government agencies function.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created to adjust to the changing dynamics of national security threats post-9/11.  DHS now plays a lead role in the refugee situation facing the United States and the world today.

Two former Homeland Security Secretaries wrote President Obama on how to safely welcome Syrian refugees.  Their comments reflected the heated debate on refugee immigration into the United States.  Referring to the process by which refugees undergo to be cleared, Janet Napolitano and Michael Chertoff stated:

"The process for any refugee seeking entry to the United States requires the highest level of scrutiny from a law enforcement and national security perspective. The process takes place while the refugees are still overseas, and it is lengthy and deliberate…The process that is currently in place is thorough and robust and, so long as it is fully implemented and not diluted, it will allow us to safely admit the most vulnerable refugees while protecting the American people."

The recent debate about refugee immigration in the United States has been intense.  Should they be admitted?  How many should be admitted?  What are the requirements/restrictions? Napolitano and Chertoff reaffirm why refugee flow into the United States is appropriate and necessary.  The truth is that we can’t keep the threat out and the threat is already here.  Anti-refugee backlash created from the Paris attacks only assists ISIS in recruiting efforts and potentially creates more problems than it solves.  Terrorists in the 2005 London attacks were British citizens, the Boston Marathon bombings were carried out by a US citizen and a permanent US resident, and the Paris attacks seemed to involve mainly French citizens and other European residents. 

Furthermore, we may keep out a few potential threats by disallowing refugee influx, but the backlash from refusing innocent people will create a greater threat to national security. The world seeing the Unites States and others refusing refugees could drive people to extremist organizations. Evidence of this could be seen in the Assad regime’s mistreatment of citizens, which drove them to ISIS.  The process for refugee immigration described by the Napolitano and Chertoff shows a detailed approach for immigration.  It is in the Unites States’ national security interest to continue this process and be vigilant in every step of the clearance procedure.  The Department of Homeland Security must adapt for this circumstance, which may be new territory for the agency. The same can be said for other government agencies dealing with new threats and circumstances in the changing environment of national security post-9/11.

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