Washington Governor, Security Expert, Faith and Refugee Resettlement Leaders Discuss Syrian Refugees

Communications Associate

November 17, 2015

For a recording of the press call, click here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The governor of Washington, a security expert and faith and refugee resettlement leaders underscored the tight security measures in place for potential refugees during a press call today.

While some national and state elected officials have been quick to raise flags regarding refugee resettlement, speakers pointed to the United States’ strict and thorough vetting process for refugees and highlighted the urgency of continued refugee resettlement efforts.

The following are quotes from speakers on today’s call:

Jay Inslee, Washington Governor:

“The people of Washington state stand with the people of Paris and Beirut. We know that we live in a time where there are real concerns associated with terrorism, but we also know that we are a strong, compassionate and caring country. We are called upon to continue to stand behind those seeking refuge. Allowing refuge from persecution, regardless of national origin or religion, is an important American tradition. We recognize that there are extensive screenings in place, and we cannot shut the door. These people will remain welcome in our state.”

John Sandweg, Former Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

“Refugees are subjected to the highest and most intensive security review of any population coming to the U.S. No group goes through greater scrutiny and vetting than refugees. A litany of recurrent checks continue throughout the process, which takes 18 to 24 months to complete.  None of these security steps may be waived. The system is very different from the current situation in Europe. We should not forget that by and large refugees are fleeing the despicable violence of those who perpetrated Friday’s horrible attacks.”

Stephan Bauman, President and CEO, World Relief:

“We at World Relief have resettled about a quarter of a million refugees since the 1970s. The character of our nation is being tested now. We have a history of welcoming refugees and immigrants, and it has made us who we are. We also have had times in our history when we have turned away refugees. We don’t want to be that kind of nation. Refugees are people who love and are grateful for this country, who are hardworking, and a blessing to our communities. We celebrate our history of refugee resettlement and encourage our nation to make the right choice.”

Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, HIAS:

“The world needs to stay focused on fighting terrorism, not building walls of brick and paper to keep refugees out, which is exactly what happened in the years preceding and during World War II. How shameful would it be to shut out those Syrians who experience ISIS terrorism? The U.S. must and will continue to rigorously screen refugees, but as a rule, refugees do not bring terror; they are fleeing terror. They are not a drain, but a benefit to our economy and our communities.”

Jenny Yang, Vice President of Advocacy and Policy, World Relief:

“We are currently facing the worst displacement crisis World War II. Welcoming carefully vetted refugees is an important opportunity to assist these individuals. The U.S. can and should do more in the face of persecution.  We must accept any and all refugees regardless of their religion, without discrimination. The U.S. refugee resettlement system hasn’t failed here, and it has been a lifeline for people fleeing persecution. A strong refugee resettlement program doesn’t just benefit refugees, but many faith communities across the country are ready and open to welcome refugees.”

Ali Noorani, Executive Director, National Immigration Forum:

“The horrific events in Paris and Beirut last week have produced an outpouring of acts of solidarity with victims and their families. Unfortunately, many political leaders have seized the opportunity to call on U.S. authorities to close the doors to Syrian and other refugees seeking to enter our country and flee the very perpetrators of these attacks. Exclusivity isn’t how we will grow our economy. Freedom, not fear, is what makes America better.”