Two former Secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security -- Janet Napolitano (2009-2013) and Michael Chertoff (2005-2009) -- wrote to President Obama today about how we can welcome refugees while ensuring the safety and security of Americans. Here's what they had to say:
"With respect to refugees seeking to resettle here, it is our view that we can admit the most vulnerable of these refugees into this country safely as long as we do not compromise the already established protections."
Through this process, we forward American values of "openness and inclusive" by helping protect the most vulnerable Syrians.
"First, we consider only the most vulnerable -- particularly survivors of violence and torture, those with severe medical conditions, and women and children -- for potential admittance to the U.S."
But we're also working to ensure the safety of Americans at home. According to Secretaries Napolitano and Chertoff, refugees undergo a more rigorous screening process than anyone else we allow into the U.S.
"The process for any refugee seeking entry to the United States requires the highest level of scrutiny from a law enforcement and national security perspective. The process takes place while the refugees are still overseas, and it is lengthy and deliberate."
Here's how the two former Homeland Security Secretaries walk us step-by-step through that process:
"Once a candidate is selected they are subjected to biographic and biometric security reviews based on the latest intelligence from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. If they pass these national security checks, they will then be personally interviewed by specially trained DHS personnel to ensure they are qualified for admittance."
After that, the candidates are subjected to further screening right up to an interview at the border before they enter the U.S.
"They are then subjected to recurrent vetting up to the final point of departure and a final interview at the border before being admitted into the U.S."
That full process is why Secretaries Napolitano and Chertoff concluded that we can both welcome Syrian refugees and ensure our safety:
"The process that is currently in place is thorough and robust and, so long as it is fully implemented and not diluted, it will allow us to safely admit the most vulnerable refugees while protecting the American people."