Ominous: Syrian Refugee Viewpoints On ISIS & The United States

According to a poll published by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, 13% of Syrian refugees have, at the very least, a somewhat positive opinion of ISIS.  The study found that 4% of respondents have a favorable impression of the terror organization, while 9% expressed having a somewhat positive view of the group. Ten percent viewed the group negatively, but only to a certain degree.

According to the poll, Syrian refugees view the United States as the third greatest threat to the Arab world (19%)  In first place is Iran (29%), followed by Israel (22%). Jihadists, however, were viewed as a threat by only 10% of those polled.

The number of those who think of ISIS in positive terms could very well increase, however. In another study, it was found that importing refugees into a country can actually increase the odds of refugees becoming radicalized: “A study of Al-Qaeda operatives found that 70% joined the jihad after moving to a new country and 80% were isolated from the society they lived in. The aforementioned congressional report warns that that the radicalization of Americans is already happening at an ‘unprecedented speed’ and is ‘straining federal law enforcement’s ability to monitor and intercept suspects.’”

The Obama Administration has said that it will permit 10,000 Syrian refugees to resettle in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016. Approximately 2,000 have come to the U.S. since 2012. The Obama administration also has plans to increase the number of U.S. bound refugees from 70,000 to 100,000 in 2016-2017.

Statistically speaking, based on the first poll, 13,000 of those refugees would most likely hold at least somewhat positive views of ISIS, with 4,000 having a solidly good opinion of the terror organization.

There are several issues involved in bringing a large number of refugees into the country:

  • Many will fly under the radar. The system used for vetting is “heavily oriented toward electronic systems — databases with biographical information about known or suspected terrorists, sometimes with biometrics (fingerprints or photos). But what do you do if they aren’t known and have no fingerprints of record in any U.S. system? Why, then you look at the documents they present to you for clues.”
  • Identity theft along with blank passports can prove to be an potent combination.
  • It is quite easy for migrants, including jihadists, to obtain legitimate Syrian documents which they present to refugee officers. Many Syrian government offices have been significantly impacted by the war and there is, apparently, a “trove of blank documents — passports, national identity cards, driver’s licenses, etc. — behind for extremist groups and criminal gangs to take advantage of.”
  • “Not only have birth and death records been destroyed during this civil war, but even when they are still available to the Syrian government, there is no reason for authorities of the Assad regime to cooperate with officials of a government in Europe or the United States, when that government wishes to see him deposed.”
  • The Daily Mail has revealed how one of their journalists bought a whole package of Syrian documents which were created from legitimate blank stock, tailored specifically for him, for only $2,000.
  • According to that same journalist, the vendor in Turkey who sold him the documents explained that such blanks were already being prepared for ISIS to use to infiltrate the West.
  • A Bulls & Bears video discusses concerns regarding ISIS gaining entry into the U.S. along with Syrian refugees.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently held a hearing entitled “Oversight of the Administration’s FY 2016 Refugee Resettlement Program: Fiscal and Security Implications.” Disturbingly, none of the government experts on the panel could answer the question Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) asked, regarding refugees and affiliation with terrorism. The senator simply asked: “Can you, any of you tell me how many people who’ve been given refugee status since 2001 have been identified as affiliated with terrorism in any manner?” Seems like something that should have been addressed before making the decision to allow thousands of refugees into the country.

Additionally, during the hearing Sen. Sessions quoted Michael Steinbach, Assistant Director of the FBI, who has alluded to the lack of dependable screening measures of Syrian refugees:

“The concern in Syria is that we don’t have systems in places on the ground to collect information to vet…You’re talking about a country that is a failed state, that does not have any infrastructure, so to speak. So all of the dataset, the police, the intel services that normally you would go to to seek information doesn’t exist.”

Then, there’s the issue of mass parole, a system through which the U.S. could admit Syrians by sidestepping the statutory process for refugees. As it turns out, a letter signed by 70 members of Congress was sent to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting that the administration consider establishing a Syrian Family Reunification Parole Program. So, a relative living in the United States could petition on behalf of a close relative, and if that beneficiary is Syrian, the recommendation would be that parole should be considered for that particular Syrian.

As is the case with Germany, the U.S. is ill-prepared for the myriad of issues admitting a large amount of refugees will bring. Allowing people into the U.S. needs to be a rational decision, not a knee-jerk, emotional response–as is the case with all matters of national security.

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