By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, September 22, 2015, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) sent a letter to the State Department demanding answers to serious questions about the screening process that Syrian refugees must undergo before being brought to the United States.
According to information released by Congressman Byrne’s office, Secretary of State John Kerry (D) announced over the weekend that the administration of President Obama (D) will increase the number of worldwide refugees accepted into the United States to 100,000, which is a significant increase over the current cap of 70,000. This announcement comes in response to the migrant crisis in Europe brought on by the fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Congressman Byrne is particularly concerned that groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will use the flood of refugees to get their fighters into the United States. In fact, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently called the migrant issue a “huge concern” and said that “we don’t put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees.”
Congressman Byrne has learned that Mobile is home to one of the 190 State Department refugee affiliates. The Mobile location is the only affiliate in the State of Alabama.
When we learned that the first 100 refugees were bound for Mobile, the Alabama Political Reporter reached out to with former Social Security specialist Cody Jones, who worked with Somali refugees on assignment with SSA in Augusta, Maine.
Jones, who is currently a Gadsden area former Democratic Party strategist, and consultant, discounted the security fears, “I don’t buy into all the scare that these refugees are just droves and droves of sleeper agents or cultural radicals that will either 1.) attack 2.) propagandize the West into Eastern/Islamist thinking. Frankly, I think that’s the stuff from paranoid crackpots who wear their tinfoil too tight. But there is a real danger as far as socio-economic is concerned. My Social Security’s sister office in Auburn, ME had an ENORMOUS part of their service area affected by Somalian refugees located there and to put it simply they were the rudest, most entitled, violent people I have ever encountered. They’ve been “refugees” for twenty years and generally-speaking they do not contribute one iota to the economic well-being of the area and have nearly single-handily ruined the local community.”
Jones said, “100 refugees aren’t like one hundred people. This is one hundred people with absolutely nothing and special diplomatic protection. They will qualify for every assistance under the sun. SSI alone that’s about around $880,000 that’s just gone. And while only a hundred may be refugees give it time like the Somalians in Maine. You will see two or three additional immigrant relatives. Then newborns all receiving assistance. All displacing low-income resources from current, needy Alabamians.” Jones said, “What I’m talking about is the impact on existing assistance offices. DHS, housing, Social Security, etc. 100 more customers when you’re already over caseload ain’t no fun.”
Rep. Byrne wrote in his letter, “I have legitimate concerns about the safety and security of my constituents in Southwest Alabama and people across the United States. I would like to know what precautions are being made to ensure these refugees are not affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or other terrorist organizations.”
Byrne asked: “1. What kind of vetting process must the applicants go through? 2. What types of security screenings must the applicants go through and which federal agencies or departments are involved in the screenings? 3. What are some of the specific findings that could lead to an application being denied? 4. What efforts will be made to monitor the status of these individuals while they are in the United States? 5. What safeguards are in place to ensure our national security remains a priority while admitting refugees?” 6. Will this increase in refugees require additional funding from Congress?”
Rep. Byrne said, “While I understand the serious challenges facing the Middle East, we must never lose sight of our top priority: to ensure the American people remain safe.”
Rep. Byrne said in a statement on Tuesday, “I have grave concerns about both the national security and financial impact of allowing such a large influx of refugees into the United States. That is why I have contacted the State Department to express my concerns and seek more information on what type of security screening process these individuals will be required to undergo. I have yet to receive a response.”
US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) shared a column with reporters in which Rich Lowry wrote: “If the United States is letting a guilty conscience prod it into taking in some of that flow, it shouldn’t. America is already incredibly generous to migrants, and settling Syrians here is not the most cost-effective or sensible way for us to help. Indeed, the United States is already the migrant capital of the world. It’s host to “about 20 percent of the world’s international migrants, even as it represents less than 5 percent of the global population,” according to the Migration Policy Institute. About a quarter of the US population is foreign-born or the children of immigrants. Our generosity has extended to Muslim migrants. Before the European crisis, the Pew Research Center projected that by 2030 the United States would have a larger number of Muslims than any European country besides Russia and France. The United States has already been dealing with its own, smaller-scale migrant crisis. More than 100,000 migrants from Central America came here last year, and the vast majority of them aren’t going back. There are tens of thousands more this year. Notably, no European country is offering to welcome any as a sign of their good international citizenship.”
Lowry notes that more than half of the population in Syria has been displaced by the ongoing violence that began during the Arab Spring of 2012. Since then, the Western backed, Free Syrian Army has collapsed and Al Quaeda backed Jabhat Al-Nasra, ISIS, and other Islamic extremist militias have battled the Hassad regime while the US leads a coalition of nations in air strikes against ISIS, which has since added almost half of Iraq to its domain.
Lowry wrote, “According to The Wall Street Journal, the United States spent $1.1 billion screening and re-settling 70,000 refugees last year. In another generous first-world country, Norway, the government estimates that it costs $125,000 to support each refugee. That would support about 25 Syrian refugees if it were devoted to resettling them in Jordan…Then there’s the question of security. The administration talks a big game about vetting the new Syrian refugees, but given that there are no records about them and we won’t be cooperating with the Syrian government, any definitive screening will be next to impossible.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District which includes Mobile.