Lynch concedes ‘challenges’ in refugee screening

Lynch concedes ‘challenges’ in refugee screening
© Greg Nash

Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday defended the Obama administration’s efforts to screen the thousands of Syrian refugees set to enter the U.S., though she acknowledged there were “challenges” posed by the country’s chaotic civil war.

“There is a screening process that has data from several different agencies” including the FBI and intelligence officials, Lynch told the House Judiciary Committee, “and much information is vetted and queried.”

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“Certainly there are challenges to that process because of the situation in Syria,” she added. “But I would note, however, that we do have the benefit of having that significant and robust screening in place — a process that Europe has not been able to set up, which makes them much more vulnerable.”

Lynch’s defense comes amid new skepticism of the White House’s plans to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country over the next year following the killing of more than 120 people in Paris on Friday. At least one of the people involved in that massacre was reported to have slipped into the country among Syrian refugees, which has led to sweeping concerns about the nation’s security from the refugees. 

“I think we’ll be vulnerable, too,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteJordan wants Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee House Judiciary chair threatens subpoena if DOJ doesn’t supply McCabe memos by Tuesday Rosenstein report gives GOP new ammo against DOJ MORE (R-Va.) told Lynch.

The House will likely vote later this week on legislation to halt the Obama administration’s plans for the refugees. That action on Capitol Hill comes as more than half the nation’s governors have expressed opposition to the government’s plans. 

In particular, critics of the refugee proposal point to FBI Director James Comey’s remarks earlier this year, when he worried that “gaps” in U.S. intelligence would make it difficult to fully screen refugees.

“There is risk associated of bringing anybody in from the outside, but specifically from a conflict zone like that,” Comey told a Senate panel earlier this year.

“In the case of Syria, you can’t go to the government offices in that country,” Goodlatte said on Monday. “You can’t go and interview people who are applying for this status.”

“The country is in disarray.”

Roughly 2,000 refugees have come to the U.S. since the civil war began in Syria more than four years ago — a far lower number than the hundreds of thousands of people that have streamed into Europe and the millions scattered across neighboring countries in the Middle East.