On Thursday, the US House of Representatives voted to place increased restrictions on which Syrian refugees will be allowed to enter the United States. The Obama administration had previously pledged to accept 10,000 people fleeing from war-torn Syria, but the attacks on Paris last week have left many worried about security concerns.
The bill must pass the Senate and avoid a presidential veto before it becomes law, but according to a Syrian community leader in New York City, that legislation may be too little too late.
"I believe the terrorists from Syria have been coming into the United States, not only in the past few years, but way before that," Arafat "Ralph" Succar told the New York Post. “I think they’re already at work."
Succar is a member of the Bay Ridge Community Council in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, the largest neighborhood of Syrian expats in the city. Having immigrated to the US from Syria at the age of 10, he says corruption in his homeland makes it easy for terrorists to get the required documents.
"You can go to the Syrian government today and say to them, 'I need a piece of paper that says I’m Tony Caterpillar.' And they give it to you," he said.
"These are not forged documents. These are written out by a government employee who needs money, whose family has no food."
Succar also doubts the Syrian intelligence network’s ability to properly vet refugees.
"In Syria, there’s no such thing. So when they tell you that [the refugees] are vetted, are you out of your mind?"
Regardless of the effectiveness of Syrian intelligence, refugees do not register for asylum through the government of the country from which they are fleeing. Individuals must first register with the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees, and the UNHCR then decides which country to refer applicants to. In the United States, any refugee goes through an extensive background check through nine federal agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, before being resettled.
President Obama has insisted that the United States will honor its pledge to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees, and has said he would veto any Congressional effort to halt that policy.
"Slamming the doors in their faces would be a betrayal of our values," Obama said on Monday during the G20 summit in Turkey, adding that "refugees are the victims of terror."