The day that Pope Francis asked Americans to respond humanely to refugees and other migrants, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee dismissed the idea of being welcoming -- insisting it could lead to admitting "some of the most violent and vicious people on Earth."
In a radio interview Thursday, as noted by Buzzfeed, Huckabee had an idea for how the U.S. should keep out violent people: a vetting process. Luckily, the United Nations and the U.S. government have already thought of that.
"If we don’t have a vetting process and understand this is not just letting, you know, some hungry children in," Huckabee told radio host John Fredericks. "This is letting a bunch of military-age-able males that we have no idea who they are, why they’re coming, and how ridiculous it would be to just say, 'Open the floodgates.' I mean we could be inviting some of the most violent and vicious people on Earth to come right in here and live among our families, and I think it’s insane."
Others have raised the concern about vetting as well, especially as the U.S. prepares to admit at least 10,000 Syrians in the next fiscal year, and to increase refugee acceptance in general. It's one thing, though, to argue the vetting process isn't good enough. To suggest that a process doesn't exist is wildly misleading.
The vetting process actually is extensive, starting with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and continuing to the U.S. government. The U.N. tracks and coordinates aid for the world's 13 million refugees, including the 4 million from Syria.
Huckabee noted that not all of the people claiming asylum in Europe are actually from Syria. Regardless of their origin, the word "refugee" has a specific definition -- a person must be fleeing based on a well-founded fear of persecution for certain reasons and be unable to find protection in his or her country. Economic migrants are not considered refugees, so someone moving simply for a better life wouldn't qualify to come to the U.S. as a refugee.
After the High Commissioner for Refugees registers refugees, it determines who should be referred for permanent resettlement in other countries. Typically, a slim minority end up being resettled. The agency is aware of the possibility of fraud, and instructs its staff to be vigilant during screening to catch people who are falsely claiming identities or membership in families.
Once the U.N. refers refugees to the U.S., it takes 18 to 24 months for them to actually make it here -- if they are approved -- because of additional measures. Refugees are interviewed in person, and then are screened by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense and other agencies, according to the administration. They also go through a health screening.
The lengthy process may not be a problem under President Huckabee, however. Asked how many refugees he would take in as president, his answer seemed to be zero. He said he doesn't think " the best thing for them is to bring them to the U.S." and suggested the country should give humanitarian assistance instead, or ask Saudi Arabia to accept them.
"I think we need to say, 'Look, we will help in humanitarian efforts with food and shelter and some basic necessities to get these folks in a transition, but they don't speak our language, they don't have our culture, they’re really going to be very much sort out of their water, coming to the United States,'" Huckabee said.
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