Refugees and National Security

Refugees & National Security - Press Kit


Refugees are people who are authorized to come to the United States because they are determined to be fleeing individual persecution by their home government. To qualify as a refugee, a person must meet the following definition from Section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act: “any person who... is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country [their home country] because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion....”

While the number of people the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognizes as valid refugees can grow exponentially overnight, the ability to relocate them in the U.S. or other Western democracies is very limited. There are many things to consider when determining how we should prioritize resettlement, including finding out who is in the most imminent danger, who is least likely to be able to return home, and who can be effectively screened to ensure they do not pose a danger to the United States.

Efforts on behalf of refugees should be re-targeted away from resettlement and toward helping displaced populations take temporary shelter as close to their home countries as possible. This is smart policy for two reasons.

First, the U.S. Committee for Refugees has estimated that a day’s worth of funding needed to settle a single refugee in the U.S. would cover the needs of at least 12 refugees abroad. Second, by allowing a mass migration of refugees with expedited screening, particularly those from places where religious or political violence is endemic, we open ourselves up to possible terrorist threats. Oftentimes we cannot perform proper screening or background checks on these refugees, because in some cases they arrive without any form of identification and hail from countries that are not cooperative with the U.S. Thus, it’s often nearly impossible to distinguish legitimate refugees from terrorists.

In 2016, roughly 85,000 refugees were resettled in the U.S. Approximately 12,318 of them hailed from Syria, Iran and Sudan, countries considered “State Sponsors of Terrorism” by the U.S. State Department. The Obama administration has promised to dramatically increase the number of refugees it’s admitting while greatly reducing the screening process, from 12 to 18 months to three. This greatly increases the risk to all Americans.