RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Syrian refugee situation is becoming an issue in the governor’s race as the state Republican party called on Democratic candidate Roy Cooper to answer questions about what he’d do with refugees here in North Carolina.
This comes at a time when governors and the federal government are battling over just how effective the screening process for refugees is.
Standing in front of the offices of the state’s attorney general, the executive director of the NCGOP asked where Roy Cooper stands with regard to Syrian refugees.
“Does he support the governor, 10 members of the congressional delegation and the leadership of the General Assembly, as well as other governors that these Syrian refugees should not be coming to North Carolina until the safety and security of the program is evaluated?” asked Dallas Woodhouse.
In a statement, Cooper told WNCN he supports asking the federal government to pause refugee entries to make sure we have the most effective screening and that our humanitarian efforts aren’t hijacked.
Federal statistics indicate about 2,200 Syrian refugees have been admitted into the U.S. since March of 2011, with a little more than half of them children.
But how are they vetted?
Refugees must first apply to the United Nations, which decides if they can be resettled to another country.
If the U.N. sends them to the U.S., a two-year screening process begins which includes a:
• Medical evaluation
• Background checks
• Interviews with Homeland Security officials specializing in Syrian and Iraqi refugees
However, vetting the refugees can be difficult given the situation in Syria because records there are hard to come by. The U.S. has no permanent diplomatic presence in Syria which adds to the problems in back-checking refugees histories.
For Syrian’s currently living in North Carolina, the move to keep out refugees is appalling.
“Absolutely I do not agree with this decision,’ said refugee Molham Al-Hasni, who came to U.S. three years ago. “I hope nobody agrees. It’s not fair.”
Al-Hasni said he fled Syria because he’s on an ISIS hit list.
“If they catch me, absolutely, they kill me or any names on this list,” he said.
Another Syrian refugee living in North Carolina agreed to speak with WNCN if his face was not shown or use his last name because he fears ISIS will kill his family who are still back in Syria.
“I’ve been offered a safe place to stay by the United States,” said the man only identified as Wael.
“You cannot generalize about refugees and say, ‘If you come from that country you are a terrorist,’” Wael said.
And he said he owes a great debt to the U.S. which he hopes to repay.
“I want to contribute to this community and I want to pay back since I’ve been offered shelter and refugee protection status,” he said.
It should be noted that a lot of the Syrians who apply to the U.S. as refugees aren’t admitted.
U.S. government figures indicate about 50 percent of those seeking refugee status are rejected for one reason or another.