The U.S. is admitting tens of thousands of Syrian refugees “who are definitely, in many cases, ISIS-aligned,” Donald Trump lied to Americans during the third and final presidential debate on Wednesday night.
Throughout his campaign, the Republican presidential nominee has repeatedly spread false information that demonizes Syrians fleeing their nation’s deadly civil war, as well as misrepresents the United States’ system of vetting them.
He has vowed to deport the approximately 12,000 Syrian refugees who currently live in the U.S. ― “If I win, they’re going back,” he has threatened ― and has announced plans to completely halt immigration from Syria and other “dangerous countries” for an undetermined period of time.
His proposed ban on Muslims entering the country ― something that has been condemned by leaders around the world, and that his own running mate initially denounced as “offensive and unconstitutional” ― has morphed into the no-less-problematic suggestion of “extreme vetting.” This would entail ideological testing for asylum-seekers from “certain areas of the world.”
In April, Trump delivered another blow to the long-suffering Syrian population by tweeting a cartoon depiction of himself grinning while forcing a boat full of migrants to turn back toward Syria, shown as a land engulfed in flames and littered with human skulls.
Trump’s dishonest and damaging rhetoric on the matter is alarming but unwavering ― he has said on multiple separate occasions, for example, that refugees could be the “ultimate Trojan horse.”
Now in its sixth year, the Syrian crisis has internally displaced some 6.5 million people and forced nearly 5 million more out of the country. The death toll is approaching 500,000.
With Election Day just weeks away, The WorldPost fact-checked some of Trump’s major lies about Syrian refugees and America’s vetting system:
Syrian refugees are “pouring in” to the country
Syrian refugees are infiltrating the country, Trump tweeted in November 2015, suggesting some could be affiliated with the self-described Islamic State. His unabashed reliance on fear-mongering and anti-immigrant language has triggered fierce backlash both at home and abroad.
His comments during Wednesday’s debate were just echoes of claims he has made previously. “[Refugees and immigrants] are pouring in, and we don’t know what we’re doing,” Trump said during a national security speech in June.
In August the U.S. reached President Barack Obama’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the fiscal year, bringing the total to 12,000 since the conflict erupted in 2011. Canada has accepted some 32,400. At least 72 House Democrats have advocated for bringing 200,000 refugees into the U.S., a move they say would more adequately respond to the magnitude of the Syrian crisis.
Syria’s neighboring countries have borne the brunt of its mass exodus. Turkey is housing at least 2.7 million Syrian refugees. Lebanon and Jordan have taken approximately 1.07 million and 639,700, respectively.
The U.S. immigration system is “extremely open”
Trump has repeatedly criticized America’s “failed immigration system,” and slammed it in September for being “extremely open” and “fail[ing] to properly vet and screen the individuals or families coming into [the] country.”
Trump ― a presidential candidate who frequently uses the line “many people are saying” as a form of attribution ― quoted a seemingly random Twitter user with a few dozen followers and a bio that states: “Hates extremist Muslims who wants to employ SHARIA LAW in USA!” The tweet, which also lacks any form of sourcing, boldly asserts that many Syrian refugees are “poorly vetted” young men.
Nope. For one thing, about 67 percent of Syrians who have applied for refuge in the U.S. are women and children. For another, refugee-vetting is a long, extensive process.
“Of all the different ways to enter this country as an immigrant, doing so as a refugee is probably the most cumbersome and time-consuming,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a recent interview with “60 Minutes.”
Before a Syrian is granted refugee status and admission to the U.S., he or she must first make it through the United Nations’ screening process. This involves supplying background information, completing iris scans and taking part in multiple interviews. The number of applicants who advance to the next step accounts for less than 1 percent of the global refugee population.
From there, applicants are subjected to the highest level of U.S. security checks and further screened by numerous agencies, including the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. They must provide fingerprints to be checked against several biometric databases and go through medical testing as well as cultural orientation classes.
The entire process can often take up to two years and refugees are required to repay their travel costs.
Trump shared the ominous message about “poorly vetted” young male refugees on Sept. 19, the morning after an explosion in his hometown of New York City. Authorities charged 28-year-old suspect Ahmad Khan Rahami in connection with bombings in New York and New Jersey. Perhaps Trump is unaware that Rahami is a naturalized U.S. citizen with no confirmed ties to Syria.
Syrian refugees provide “no paperwork”
“We have to stop the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States -– we don’t know who they are, they have no documentation, and we don’t know what they’re planning,” Trump misinformed supporters in June.
He continued to spew fiction during an immigration policy speech in August: “We have no idea who they are, where they come from, there’s no documentation, there’s no paperwork. It’s going to end badly, folks, it’s going to end very, very badly.”
Fact check: Syrian refugee applicants must supply substantial amounts of paperwork and background information. HBO’s John Oliver gave an unparalleled breakdown in his satirical news program:
Hillary Clinton plans to admit 620,000 Syrian refugees in her first term, and has proposed “no system to vet them” (these are lies Nos. 4 and 5)
“Altogether, under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to vet them, or to prevent the radicalization of their children,” Trump lied in June.
Then, at a North Carolina rally in September, he issued another complete falsehood: “Altogether, Hillary Clinton’s plan would bring in 620,000 [Syrian] refugees in her first term alone with no effective way to screen or vet them.”
Wrong and wrong.
The Democratic presidential nominee proposed in September 2015 that the U.S. should welcome up to 65,000 refugees from Syria ― a fraction of what Trump erroneously stated.
“We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II, and I think the United States has to do more.”
“I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000 and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in,” Clinton told CBS. “We’re facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II, and I think the United States has to do more.”
On the debate stage this week, Clinton addressed Trump’s repeated lies about her proposed vetting system.
“I am not going to let anyone into this country who is not vetted [and] who we do not have confidence in,” she said. “But I am not going to slam the door on [Syrian] women and children. ... We are going to do very careful, thorough vetting.”
Syrians are sneaking through the U.S. border
In November 2015 Trump incorrectly and repeatedly claimed that a group of Syrians were “caught” trying to enter the U.S. He flagrantly suggested they were connected to ISIS, and used the incident to promote his idea for constructing a wall along the southern border of the U.S.
In fact, two asylum-seeking families, including four children, “presented themselves” at the border and were detained, according to a statement from the DHS. There were no indications that the Syrian families were trying to sneak into the country, and U.S. government officials confirmed there was no evidence of any connection to terrorism.
Syrian refugees are dangerous
Admitting Syrian refugees into the country is both “a matter of terrorism” and “a matter of quality of life,” Trump said in September. He neglected to elaborate on how, exactly, Syrian refugees may harm Americans’ quality of life in any way.
A note to Mr. Trump: The vast majority of terror attacks on U.S. soil are committed by Americans, not foreigners. Of all refugees admitted to the U.S. between 2011 and 2016, approximately 0.00038 percent have been linked to terrorism.
Donald Trump Jr., the GOP nominee’s son, has also wildly exaggerated the risk that Syrian refugees pose, comparing them on Twitter to poisonous Skittles.
“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful?” the younger Trump asked in a widely criticized photo ― which has since been removed from his tweet ― branded with the Trump-Pence logo. FWIW, statistics show that selfies are deadlier than Syrian refugees.
The Trumps can rest easy: An American’s chances of being killed by a Syrian refugee in a terrorist attack are a whopping 1 in 3.64 billion.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. Donate below to support the groups Donald Trump has insulted.