Guest Opinions

Idaho’s not ready for potentially dangerous Syrian influx

Those in support — and against — the arrival of refugees to Idaho showed up at a rally in November, 2015, on the Capitol steps. Gabe McGinnis walked in front of the counterprotesters.
Those in support — and against — the arrival of refugees to Idaho showed up at a rally in November, 2015, on the Capitol steps. Gabe McGinnis walked in front of the counterprotesters. kjones@idahostatesman.com

Most Idahoans would be immediately skeptical of someone who claimed that they were going to do 10 times their normal amount of work in less than one-third of the time. If such a thing was even possible, then the quality of the work would surely suffer.

But that’s exactly what people across the nation have been told about the president’s plans to admit Syrian refugees into the U.S. The U.S. admitted 105 Syrian refugees in Fiscal Year 2014 and 1,682 in 2015. This year, the president promised to increase the 2014 number by a factor of 10, to 10,000 per year. Normally, the screening process per refugee takes 12 to 18 months, but this system will be condensed to three months.

Sound like a problem? It should. This year, the number of Syrian refugees has already surpassed 6,900 and is rising quickly. Admitting such a large and potentially dangerous number of Syrian refugees not only puts immediate financial strain on American taxpayers — who are largely stuck picking up the tab — but also puts American lives at risk.

Syria is widely known as a hotbed of Muslim extremism, and caution should be the rule of the day. CIA Director John Brennan recently warned that ISIS is likely exploring options for infiltrating the West, “including refugee flows.”

A key challenge with the admittance of Syrian refugees, aside from the cost to state and local municipalities, is that many of the 5 million Syrians who have fled their ongoing civil war lack basic identification documents. And the Syrian government has been very uncooperative in corroborating their identities. In short, these refugees can claim to be anybody they want and we have no way of verifying the claim.

How are State Department screeners — those charged with vetting refugees — supposed to know if applicants have any jihadist tendencies or involvement with ISIS, if we can’t even verify their true identity? They don’t.

This year, 43 Syrian refugees have settled in Idaho, all in Boise. While those numbers might not be eye-popping, think about the mayhem that a single jihadist recently unleashed in Nice, France, killing 84 people with a truck. Or consider the loss of 43 lives at the hands of one Islamic terrorist in Orlando. One bad apple can cause a lot of stomach aches.

Thankfully, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter made it crystal clear to President Obama in a recent letter that the safety of innocent Americans is paramount. “[O]ur safety must come first and be a shared priority. I recognize that my authority is limited on this issue, but I will use any legal means available to protect the citizens I serve,” he said.

Idaho is a state with a strong reputation of welcoming newcomers and neighbors helping neighbors. The U.S. is already overly generous in its immigration admissions. Putting Syrian refugee admissions on the fast track could blow up in our faces. Literally.

Warren Grover, Meridian, is vice chairman of Treasure Valley Refugee Watch.

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