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21st-Jan-2016 09:30 am
A couple of days ago, I used a contact form over on the International Rescue Committee's site to contact my senators, asking them to vote against H.R. 4038, which would place additional restrictions on resettling refugees in the United States.

I got a reply from Senator Feinstein this morning which was reasonably reassuring in its substance, but also startling in its missing of my point.

Thank you for contacting me to share your opposition to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. I welcome the opportunity to respond.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, there are currently more than 4 million registered Syrian refugees seeking assistance after fleeing five years of conflict in Syria. Over 2,500 Syrians have lost their lives while taking dangerous journeys to European countries. The Syrian conflict has led to the world's worst ongoing humanitarian crisis and the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

I understand you are concerned that the U.S. Department of State may initiate a new program to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States and that you believe this poses a threat to our national security. The President has said, for fiscal year 2016, the U.S. would accept up to 85,000 refugees, 10,000 of which would be Syrians. All U.S. refugee applicants, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or religion, are required to meet strict criteria, including security checks through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Intelligence community, and the U.S. Department of State, in order to qualify for admission to the United States. Additionally, refugees from certain countries must meet additional clearance levels. For example, biometric information, such as fingerprints and photographs, are collected from refugees coming from Syria and compared to the U.S. vast biometric holdings on foreign nationals.

This was followed up with some additional stuff about the Visa Waiver program and how Senator Feinstein thinks that that is the real security threat that needs to be addressed. Which frankly makes me uneasy as well, but I haven't researched that properly, so I don't know how I feel about that.

I think I can probably chalk this up to a clerical error somewhere. I did write back to Senator Feinstein:

Dear Senator Feinstein:

Thank you for your message. I'm afraid my original email might not have been clear - I was writing to you in support of resettling additional refugees in the United States. I do not believe that Syrian refugees represent any kind of security threat to the United States, and I'm glad that you share my opinion that the existing screening process and security checks for refugees are thorough and adequate.

I very much appreciate your reply to my email, and the additional information that you have provided about your work in ensuring the safety and security of Americans.


Wendy A. Shaffer
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