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Opinion: Afghan refugees are carefully vetted before entering the U.S.

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In a recent letter (Refugees will change voting demographics, Oct. 1) about the arrival in the U.S. of refugees from Afghanistan, Ira Marks expresses a pre-set political judgment that deliberately overlooks and bypasses important evidence to the contrary. We write to propose a more balanced view of the arrival of those refugees.

First, there will be a careful vetting process for approving refugees to settle in the U.S. Details are outlined on the U.S. Government’s “Operation Allies Welcome” page on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) website. Mr. Marks completely ignores what is said there about vetting of refugees:

“DHS has deployed approximately 300 personnel from Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, United States Coast Guard, and United States Secret Service to Bahrain, Germany, Kuwait, Italy, Qatar, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates to conduct processing, screening, and vetting in coordination with the Departments of Defense and State and other federal agencies, with the goal of bringing to the United States Afghan nationals who worked for the United States, as well as other vulnerable Afghans.

“The screening and vetting process involves biometric and biographic screenings conducted by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals from the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and additional Intelligence Community (IC) partners. The U.S. government has worked with urgency and care to enhance screening and vetting operations to make them more efficient without compromising national security. This has resulted in a robust interagency process that efficiently screens Afghans at risk prior to their travel to the United States.”

Secondly, news reports have shown that many of the most energetic advocates of settling Afghan refugees, and who worked tirelessly to rescue as many as possible, were in fact U.S. military veterans who had worked with, and knew well, those Afghan interpreters, employees, service personnel. Conservative Republican congressmen and senators were also strong advocates of rescuing those allies who’d worked with us in Afghanistan (some even chartering private jets to fly them out).

In a Sept. 21 NJ Spotlight story “Groups Preparing to Settle Afghan Refugees in NJ,” it says: “Most Afghans who will be resettled have worked with the United States in its mission in Afghanistan, including across military, diplomatic and development efforts, or are family members of someone who did, according to officials. Thousands more worked as journalists, human rights activists or humanitarian workers and had careers that put them at risk, which would make them eligible for certain visas. Others are also family members of American citizens or legal permanent residents.”

The story also says that, in total, New Jersey will likely have to settle only 500 refugees. Others will be settled in California, Texas, Washington State and Pennsylvania.

Finally, it is both naïve and inaccurate to assume that emigrants to this country automatically become devotees of the political administration that has brought them here. The political views of new arrivals – whether they be Cubans, Asians, Hispanics, or others–are indeed diverse.

Mr. Marks’s approach to this matter is overly biased by his political views and his goal of simply stoking fear of these new arrivals.

Steven Lestition and Vincent Peloso

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