Debate Rages On Syrian Refugees: Are The Fears Of U.S. Citizens Unfounded? [Video]

The debate rages on Syrian refugees and whether they should be allowed into the United States, in light of the Paris attacks. To date, 31 states want to pause immigration from Syria. The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill that will suspend the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program, until national agencies can certify that there is no security risk. The House approved the bill by a 289-137 vote with 47 Democrats joining 242 Republicans, but the Senate hasn't yet voted on it.

According to a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll, 54 percent of U.S. citizens oppose accepting Syrian refugees, while 43 percent approve. Regarding the vetting process for refugee approval, 52 percent express a lack of confidence, but 47 percent are more confident. Seventy-eight percent believe the admissions process should be "equal for all," and only 18 percent feel Christians should be given priority status. Although there may have been concerns about Syrians coming to the United States before the terrorism previously, fears have heightened. But it's important to understand the Syrian refugee connection to Paris and separate truth from speculation.

Were Syrian refugees involved in Paris attacks?

The Washington Post added that a passport was found near the slain body of one of the terrorists. It was issued to Ahmad Almohammad, a 25-year-old Syrian national, by officials in Greece on October 4. He had arrived a day earlier on a boat carrying migrants from Turkey. Some view this as evidence that one of the terrorists was a refugee. Authorities, however, have determined that the passport is fake. On Tuesday, November 17, Syrian officials arrested another man at a refugee camp who carried a forged passport with the exact same information. It is now unclear if he is involved in the case.

How the "pause" on Syrian immigration began

Republican Governor Rick Snyder was the first to call for a pause on taking in Syrian refugees and said it is only because he wants answers. He described himself as the "most pro-immigration governor in the country," noted NPR News. Snyder said compassion should be shown, but the United States should still proceed with caution. Per Snyder's office, he wants a detailed response from Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that addresses concerns. The final word is that governors can't block Syrian refugees, because the federal government handles immigration. But states can make it difficult for refugees to access social services.

Screening process for Syrian Refugees

According to a CNN report, most Syrian refugees admitted to the United States are women, children, elderly or sick. Only 2 percent are males between the ages of 18 and 30. U.S. asylum seekers are vetted through a rigorous process that includes background checks by authorities from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, National Counterterrorism Center, State Department and the Pentagon. Demographic data is supplied by prospective immigrants, and they are also interviewed. Their names are then run through databases to determine if they pose a threat. Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Leon Rodriguez said, "Refugees get the most scrutiny and Syrian refugees get the most scrutiny of all."

A seemingly easier way for Syrian or other terrorists to enter the United States is through a student visa waiver program that allows citizens of Western countries to visit for three months without a visa, providing a back door entry from Europe. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake will introduce legislation that will end visa waivers for anyone from other Western countries who visited Syria or Iraq in the last five years, added CNN.

Allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States will likely remain a highly debatable issue, and strong opinions are held by many Americans in light of of Paris and 9/11. As to whether the fears are legitimate or unfounded, it depends on whom is asked. Perceptions are based on the outlined facts and the foreign policy of President Barack Obama. Those who favor a suspension on the refugee program are affiliated with both political parties.

[Image: David Ramos/Getty Images]

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