After Homeland Security approves a refugee, they are screened for contagious diseases and required to take a cultural orientation class. Next, they are matched with a U.S. resettlement agency, which will determine a suitable location for the refugee — typically a major city with an immigrant population that can help receive the newcomer or a location in which the refugee already has family members.
Because of the extended period between the initial screening and departure for the United States, officials conduct a final multi-agency security check before the refugee leaves for their new home. When they arrive in the U.S., they undergo a final security check at the U.S. airport.
About half of the refugees admitted are children. Around 25% are adults over 60. Only 2% of those have been single males of “combat age.” In 2016, the U.S. admitted 84,995 refugees, according to the Pew Research Center.
What About Syria?
Under the Obama administration’s rules, refugees from Syria undergo an additional layer of scrutiny, known as the “Syria Enhanced Review,” which prescreens a refugee’s application and creates a dossier that U.S. officials can use for questioning during security interviews.
“Of all the categories of persons entering the U.S., these refugees are the single most heavily screened and vetted,” said Jana Mason, a senior adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2015.
The most pressing need for resettlement comes from Syria, due to its ongoing civil war, which has displaced 5 million people and killed 470,000, including 55,000 children. The vast majority of Syrians are Muslim.
The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that more people have been displaced from their homes today than at any point in history. War, climate change, dwindling resources, drought, economic instability, and lack of basic human rights, including access to health care, education, employment and freedom of movement, have contributed to a record 65.3 million people being forced to leave their homes. Among them are 21.3 million who are classified as refugees and 10 million who are classified as stateless. Every day, 34,000 more people are forcibly displaced from their homes. The UN aims to provide aid and assistance to those who are waiting to return to their homes once conditions improve.
A Religious Litmus Test?
So what more could the Trump administration add to make the vetting process even more rigorous? An ideological litmus test. During his campaign, Trump called for an ideological litmus test for Muslim visitors and immigrants. His first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, called fear of Islam “rational,” suggesting Islam is a political ideology. Future refugees may face questions about their religion, including their views of homosexuals and women. Trump’s executive order states that “the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred,’ including those who perpetrate ‘forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own.” It is unclear how many U.S.-born citizens would pass such a test.