Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Attorney General: 'Robust' US Screening for Syrian Refugees

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Attorney General: 'Robust' US Screening for Syrian Refugees

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * House Republicans pressed Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Tuesday over the White House's plan to allow thousands more Syrian war refugees into the country despite last week's attacks in Paris.

Lynch told the House Judiciary Committee that protecting the U.S. from the threat of Islamic State and other terrorist groups was the Justice Department's top priority, adding that more than 70 people had been charged in the last two years for alleged conduct related to foreign-fighter activity and homegrown violent extremism.

Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., asked Lynch about the risk of terrorists posing as refugees. The body of one suicide bomber in Paris was found with a Syrian passport, and prosecutors say his fingerprints matched those of someone who passed through Greece in October. But Germany's top security official said the passport might have been a fake intended to stoke fears about refugees.

Lynch said the screening process for those considered for immigration to the United States was more stringent, relying on extensive interviews, biometric screening and the combined intelligence assets of several federal agencies.

"Certainly, there are challenges to that process because of the situation in Syria," Lynch said. "But I would note, however, that we do have the benefit of having that significant and robust screening process in place, a process that Europe has not been able to set up, which renders them more vulnerable."

The U.S. has admitted only about 2,500 Syrians since the civil war erupted in that country in the spring of 2011, a tiny fraction of the millions who have sought refuge in neighboring countries and Europe.

The administration of President Barack Obama has set the goal of admitting 10,000 more in the coming year, a decision announced after a photograph of a dead Syrian boy who had washed up on a Turkish beach in September sparked worldwide calls for compassion.

In the wake of Friday's attacks in Paris, more than two dozen governors, most of them Republicans, have called for Syrian refugees to be barred from their U.S. states. GOP congressional leaders have also called for a "pause" in the numbers of Syrians admitted to the county.

Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Ann Wagner were among six Republican members of the Missouri congressional delegation who called upon Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, to reverse his decision to allow Syrian refugees into the state.

Bucking the trend of some other governors, including Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois, Nixon on Monday said he would not bar Syrian immigrants from coming into Missouri. …

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