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Trump's next immigration challenge may be beyond the northern border. By Nolan Rappaport

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© Getty

According to the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the United States has an exceptional history of welcoming refugees.

Since 1975, it has welcomed more than three million refugees for resettlement from all over the world. Nevertheless, despite the efforts of the United States and 29 other countries that accept refugees for resettlement, less than one percent of the world’s 21.3 million refugees are resettled.

The United States conducts its own vetting process to decide which refugees it will accept, and this is in addition to the screening UNHCR does on the refugees. The entire process is conducted abroad. It can take up to two years to complete, but the processing time has been severely reduced on at least one occasion.

The United States reduced the processing time to three months last year to meet President Barack Obama’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees here by September 30.
And the value of security screening depends on the availability of information from a refugee’s country.

The threat of terrorism has caused many people to become suspicious of the refugees. In the minds of many Europeans, for instance, the current refugee crisis and the terrorism in the European Union are very much related to one another.

Read more at --

Published initially on The Hill.

About the author

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years; he subsequently served as the immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. He also has been a policy advisor for the DHS Office of Information Sharing and Collaboration under a contract with TKC Communications, and he has been in private practice as an immigration lawyer at Steptoe & Johnson.

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  1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    This article, without expressly saying so, gives the entirely misleading impression that Canada did not screen its 40,000 Syrian refugees before letting them in.

    However, according to the Law Library of Congress, Canada describes its refugee screening process as "thorough" rigorous and multi-staged.

    For details about Canada's refugee policies and screening process, see the Library of Congress,

    It is too bad that Nolan, judging from his article, apparently didn't check as carefully as he might have done to see what the screening for Syrian refugees entering Canada actually is, before writing an article implying that America has a long, open border with Canada which thousands of Syrian refugees who were never screened and whom no one knows anything about will one day be able to cross without being checked.

    This is not fair to Canada, not fair to America and, of course, not fair to the refugees them selves.

    Why don't we leave the hyperbole about all the millions of actual or potential "terrorists", who are "pouring" into the US to Donald Trump, since he does that sort of thing better than anyone else, and stick to the actual facts, which, once again, have a way of turning out to be quite different from some of our 45th president's fantasies when it comes to immigration?

    As an additional thought, would Nolan care to share with the rest of us what the latest statistics are on the number of violent crimes or terrorist acts that have actually been committed by any of the pathetically small number of Syrian refugees (especially on the US side - we should have taken in at least 10 times as many - i.e. 250,000 Syrian refugees, consistent with our values and ideals as a nation of welcome and compassion toward the most vulnerable and most oppressed) whom either President Obama or Prime Minister Trudeau allowed to settle in their respective countries?

    Looking forward to your facts and figures on that, Nolan. It will be very interesting to see if Syrian refugees on both sides of the US- Canada border are really as dangerous as Nolan seems to believe they might be.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 02-21-2017 at 05:47 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  2. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Apparently, Roger did not notice my observation that the value of vetting refugees depends on the availability of information about the refugees, or the link I included to my article on the availability of information about Syrian refugees.

    What do we know about Syrian refugees? (October 12, 2016),

    This problem is not limited to Syrian refugees. That is why President Trump's Executive Order requires key officials in his Administration to determine what information is needed to determine whether it is safe to admit an alien to the US and then to prepare a list of countries that are not willing or not able to provide that information.

    Nolan Rappaport
    Updated 02-21-2017 at 05:49 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  3. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    As I read Nolan's article, it gave the impression that Canada doesn't screen the Syrian refugees at all. I hope and trust that No;an agrees that this is not the case.

    The reality is that both Canada and the US conduct intensive screening, involving multi-layers and multi-databases, taking a considerable period of time.

    Nolan now seems to be admitting that Canada (like the US), has a screening process, but he is now using a different argument - that the available information may not be enough, making it impossible to conduct sufficient screening no matter how long the process takes, how many databases are checked by security personnel, or how many interviews are conducted.

    This red herring argument is not new. it was also used to keep out Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

    According to available sources, the visa applications for Jewish refugees (for the very few visas that were available in the first place) were so complicated and required so many documents, that even when their Nazi persecutors cooperated in providing the required documents, there was always an excuse for denying the visas.

    By the way, I am still waiting for Nolan's statistics on the number of violent crimes or terror attacks which have been committed by any of the 65,000 Syrian refugees who have been admitted to all of North America (US and Canada combined) so far.

    The number of such incidents that I have seen reported is exactly zero.

    Unless Nolan can provide a different number, one would have to conclude that the Syrian refugee screening procedures for both the US and Canada which Nolan regards as so inadequate have been working pretty well so far, and that the alleged lack of sufficient information about each refugee (either from the home country or from the moon), is just another excuse for keeping refugees of an unpopular religion or an unpopular part of the world, in the opinion of Islamophobic "culture warriors" such as Stephen Bannon or Trump's disgraced former national security adviser (what was his name now?) out of the US.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 02-21-2017 at 06:20 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I do not see any point to responding to Roger's comments about my views on screening Syrian refugees. I am not sure that he has read my article. If he had, he should know that I did not say or even suggest that Canada does not have a screening process for Syrian refugees. I don't think he has read the article I wrote on the information available on Syrian refugees either, and I have given him the title and link to that article.

    I have no statistics on how many crimes Syrian refugees have committed. My point is that we should not be letting refugees into the United States that we do not know anything about, particularly when they are from a country that has been on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list since that list’s inception on December 29, 1979. Countries are put on this list when the State Department has determined that they have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.

    And if we have no access to information about Syrian refugees, the fact that our neighbor on the other side of a virtually unguarded border has admitted more than 40,000 of them is troubling.

    If Canada has found a way to get information from within Syria, Canada should enlighten our government.

    Nolan Rappaport

    Updated 02-21-2017 at 10:42 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  5. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Nolan once again suggests that "we have no access to information about Syrian refugees" and therefore Canada does not either. (See the last two paragraphs of his immediately above reply to my latest comment above).

    This ignores the fact that both countries have had an intensive screening process, taking up to two years on the US side, about which full details are available, as Nolan himself admits in his own Huffington Post article which he provides the link to above, and which I have read.

    Nolan argues that no information is available about the refugees from within Syria. Even if this were true, which is unlikely, since that dictatorship no doubt keeps extensive files on its citizens, in keeping with many other dictatorships, and Russia is not the only country with the expertise to hack those records, the information that both American and Canadian authorities have obtained from other sources, including numerous other background an database checks and personal interviews, seems to be serving its purpose quite well, since Nolan has not been able to point to a single incident of violent crime or terrorist acts committed by any Syrian refugees in either the US or Canada.

    This shows that the "national security" argument for banning Syrian refugees is nothing more than a pretense, based on what a federal court called a "nightmare scenario" when Mike Pence tried to stop any Syrian refugees from settling in Indiana, and that the real reason for the ban is to carry out the Trump/Bannon/Flynn agenda of keeping as many Muslims, and especially Muslim Arabs (let's give racial, not only religious, hate and bigotry its due in Donald Trump's America), as possible out of the United States.

    This brings back some of the darkest days in US immigration history, such as when America tried to keep Jewish refugees out of the US under the absurd pretext that they might turn out to be Nazi (or Communist) spies, and thereby added to the death toll from the Holocaust (which is why the ADL and so many other Jewish organizations are supporting the cause of Syrian and other Muslim refugees today).

    It also brings back the equally dark days of the late 19th century Chinese exclusion laws, which were openly based on racial grounds and were upheld by the Supreme Court expressly on such grounds.

    The Chinese exclusion law cases, by the way, are still the basis for the "Plenary Power" doctrine, which is being put forward by Muslim ban and Syrian refugee ban supporters as an argument for trashing the guarantees of religious equality and non-discrimination that are embedded in our Constitution and are the essence of what America means and actually is as a nation.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 02-22-2017 at 08:11 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  6. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    According to Roger, Nolan once again suggests that "we have no access to information about Syrian refugees" and therefore Canada does not either. (See the last two paragraphs of his immediately above reply to my latest comment above).

    This ignores the fact that both countries have had an intensive screening process, taking up to two years on the US side...

    Roger seems to be saying that there must be information from within Syria or our government would not take two years doing background screening on Syrian refugees. That reminds me of the joke about the little boy searching through piles of crap in his backyard. When asked what he was looking for, he said, "With all this horse ****, there must be a pony somewhere."

    We don't have an embassy in Syria, and Obama didn't start the two year screening process until the FBI director, the director of national intelligence, and the DHS secretary told the public that they had no one in Syria and therefore no access to information from within that country. Ordinarily, such information is gathered through our embassy in the foreign country, and we don't have an embassy in Syria.

    My guess is that Obama thought the American public would react the way Roger has to the two year screening process. Must be a pony in there somewhere.

    Nolan Rappaport
  7. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Roger should read the statements from the Senate hearing on, "Canada’s Fast-Track Refugee Plan: Unanswered Questions and Implications for U.S. National Security,"

    Nolan Rappaport

    Updated 02-22-2017 at 01:59 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  8. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Nolan knows full well that even if Syria had total moment to moment databases on every single refugee that it was ready to turn over to the world's intelligence services tomorrow, including the US and Canada. and if, in addition, every single Syrian refugee were held in isolation for 3 years for "extreme vetting" before being admitted to Canada, Trump would still yell and scream that refugees were "pouring" into Canada without any screening and that any evidence to the contrary was "fake news" being circulated by media "enemies of the American people".

    We are not talking about a president to whom facts matter. If Trump wants the public to believe that Canada is full of "unvetted" Syrian refugee terrorists who are only waiting to set off mushroom clouds over the US at their earliest opportunity, truth and reality are not going to stop him.

    What is the point of picking at and sniping away at alleged shortcomings in screening processes, which, by nature can never be perfect? And suppose they were perfect? How can anyone be sure that a given refugee won't have children or grandchildren who might one day be radicalized?

    We are talking about banning people because of race and religion here, not national security, which is just a pretext. America once banned Jewish refugees from Hitler too, based on imaginary fears that they would be "spies" and "saboteurs", and thereby adding to the Holocaust toll of victims.

    Are we repeating that history now?

    And is Trump looking for an excuse to invade Canada, just as he recently threatened to send troops into Mexico? If that is what he wants to do, he will find an excuse, Syrian refugees or no.

    Many, many years ago, an acquaintance of mine who happened to be an East European refugee (having defected from his then Communist country) told me about an old proverb from his country:

    "If someone wants to beat a dog, he can always find a stick."

    Of course, I am not referring to refugees or anyone else as dogs, here. I am only talking about the stick.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 02-23-2017 at 09:51 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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