Ex-Homeland Security chiefs defend refugee vetting process

Ex-Homeland Security chiefs defend refugee vetting process
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Two former Homeland Security secretaries say the current process for vetting refugees to enter the U.S. is thorough enough.

“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,” Janet Napolitano and Michael Chertoff wrote in a letter to President Obama dated Thursday and posted online by the White House.

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The letter comes the same day the House overwhelmingly passed legislation to halt the administration's refugee program and beef up the vetting process, which is under fire after the possibility that one of the Paris attackers posed as a Syrian refugee to enter Europe.

Under the bill, any refugees from Syria or Iraq would be prevented from entering the United States until the FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Director of National Intelligence certify that none of them are dangerous.

Senate Democrats have threatened to block the bill if it comes before the upper chamber, and Obama has threatened a veto, calling the restrictions “untenable.”

Napolitano, who served under Obama, and Chertoff, who served under Obama and President George W. Bush, wrote that the current procedures should not be changed.

“It is our view that we can admit the most vulnerable of these refugees into this country safely as long as we do not compromise the already established protections,” they wrote.

Among those protections, the pair highlighted that the vetting process takes up to two years; requires biographic and biometric reviews from DHS, the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, the State Department and the Defense Department; in person interviews; and a final interview at the border.

“The Paris attacks remind us that we must remain ever-vigilant in this effort and that the highest priority of our government is to keep Americans safe,” they wrote. “It is our view that we can achieve this mission in a manner that is consistent with American values of openness and inclusiveness.”