The Facts About Refugees


Fact Check on Misleading Claims About Refugees

Claim #1: An arbitrary deadline that ignores the need for an enhanced screening process is in direct contravention to the House-passed SAFE Act (H.R. 4038), which passed with broad bipartisan support and a veto-proof margin in the House.



  • Every fiscal year (FY) the President releases a determination on refugee admissions for the upcoming year. Last year, the announcement included the admission of up to 85,000 refugees to the United States during FY2016, including at least 10,000 Syrian refugees. This decision was not arbitrary, nor in violation of U.S. law.
  • Both FBI Director James Comey and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson both opposed the SAFE Act (H.R. 4038). Secretary Johnson stated “This bill that has been posed by Mr. McCaul…is a bad bill because it seeks to micromanage the process in a way that is counter productive to national security to our humanitarian obligation and the overall ability to focus on Homeland Security”
  • Furthermore, Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, David Petraeus, James Stavridis, and over a dozen former foreign policy and military leaders have publicly opposed such proposals in an open letter:

Claim #2:  FBI Director James Comey says there are gaps in their ability to screen Syrian refugees headed into this country.  “My concern there is there are certain gaps … in the data available to us,” Comey said. “There is risk associated of bringing anybody in from the outside, but specifically from a conflict zone like that.”  (The Hill, Oct 8, 2015)


  • Director Comey did not state there are gaps in the screening process. In a more thorough and recent interview, Comey stated the “the FBI believes it has an effective process with intelligence and other agencies to conduct vetting of refugees”
  • Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States. Refugees are subject to biographic security checks and screening by the National Counterterrorism Center, Intelligence Community, FBI, and State Department. The Department of Homeland Security conducts an enhanced review of all Syrian cases and does an in person interview with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services where they collect biometric information that is screened against the FBI’s, DHS’s, and DOD’s databases.

Claim #3:  Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper says ISIL may infiltrate refugees.  “As they descend on Europe, one of the obvious issues that we worry about, and in turn as we bring refugees into this country, is exactly what’s their background?” said Clapper. “We don’t obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees. That is a huge concern of ours.” (The Sun Chronicle, Sept 9, 2015)


  •  “The risk of refugee resettlement in terms of moving operatives into the US is low. It is an inefficient way to place operatives. Not only do the operatives have to wait 18-24 months, they have to be selected. We are selecting about 10,000 out of 2.1 million refugees in recognized UNHCR camps. That is a very small figure: they have no control over an operative being selected. And given the way we privilege the most vulnerable populations, it’s highly unlikely they would be.” David Gartenstein-Ross, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, in testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on November 19, 2015.
  • “I think the critical point here is that when it comes to the refugee program, the ones we’ve used in the past and certainly with regards to Syrian refugees, there is really no program in the world that is as extensive as what the United States does in terms of looking at the background information, the intelligence, the biographical information…It includes interviews of each potential refugee, it includes biometric gathering, the process itself takes 18 to 24 months all told, and finally, a decision will be made at that time before anyone is let in.” Matthew Olsen, former Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, a national security analyst for ABC News, and a Harvard Law School lecturer, At a U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee meeting held on November 19, 2015.

Claim #4:  DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said, “We may have someone who is not on our radar and someone may choose to do something bad after they get here.” (, Oct 21, 2015)


Claim #5: Thirty-one state Governors oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states. (, Nov 19, 2015)


  • Refugee admittances are not state-level decisions. The federal government has sole authority to admit or refuse refugees lawfully to the United States.
  • Governors and other state officials do not have the authority to prevent a refugee – who has been admitted lawfully to the United States – from residing in their state.

Claim #6:  The most persecuted group in Syria is mostly absent from Syrian refugees admitted to United States.  Syrian Christians face torture, rape, beheading and crucifixion – yet of the 1,037 Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. in May 2016, 1,035 were Muslim and only 2 were Christians.  When only two-tenths of one percent of the refugees are coming from the most persecuted group in Syria, the refugee resettlement program is clearly broken. (CNS News, Jun 1, 2016)


  • Syrian refugees, regardless of their religion, are fleeing a war zone.
  • The U.S. refugee program is built on several principles. One of those principles is non-discrimination. We resettle based on need, vulnerability and the urgency of the situation, on an individual/family and case-by-case basis. This is a fundamental humanitarian principle. We are helping to resettle Muslims, Christians, and other ethnic and religious minorities. To structure a program that only resettled Christians and excluded Muslims, for whatever reason, would be un-American.
  • H.R. 4038 would prevent even MORE Christian refugees from being admitted.
  • President Obama: “When individuals say we should have a religious test and that only Christians, proven Christians, should be admitted, that’s offensive and contrary to American values.” Obama said such talk served as a “potent recruitment tool” for ISIS, which he said “seeks to exploit the idea that there’s war between Islam and the West.” “When you start seeing individuals in position of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative,” he said. “It’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop.”

Claim #7:  Several dozen Somalis admitted to the U.S. as refugees have returned to join ISIS.  “Law-enforcement authorities have said that more than 20 young men from Minnesota have left to join the Shabab militant group in Somalia and that more than 15 have tried or succeeded in leaving to join the Islamic State.” (NYTimes, June 3, 2016)

Claim #8: U.S. authorities have charged at least 66 men and women with ISIS-related terror plots on American soil – including a handful of refugees.  (Daily Mail Online, Nov. 18, 2015)


  • None of the refugees cited in the Daily Mail article were planning attacks on US soil; they were either charged with providing financial support to ISIL in the Middle East or trying to make their way to the Middle East to join the group. Furthermore, none of the refugees cited came through the Syrian refugee program: six are from Bosnia, one is from Kenya, and others were from Somalia.
  • “The United States has resettled 784,000 refugees since September 11, 2001. In those 14 years, exactly three resettled refugees have been arrested for planning terrorist activities—and it is worth noting two were not planning an attack in the United States and the plans of the third were barely credible.” Kathleen Newland, Migration Policy Institute.

Claim #9:  For the cost of processing, transporting, and settling one refugee from the Middle East to the United States, it is estimated that we can provide for the basic needs of food, shelter and medical care of ten or more refugees in a safe zone or neighboring country.  The truly humanitarian and compassionate response is to help these people with their immediate needs but make it as expeditious as possible for them to return home when hostilities cease. (CIS, Nov 2015)


  • Conditions in refugee camps in neighboring countries are dire – disease is rampant and critical basic medical care is scarce.
  • Neighboring countries are burdened to the point of breaking. 622,000 Syrians refugees currently reside in Jordan and 1.1 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon (out of a population of 4.4 million). These populations are straining the governments of Jordan and Lebanon.
  • Since the implementation of the Refugee Act in 1980, more than $876 million in refugee loan repayments has been sent to the U.S. government, according to the State Department. The U.S. requires all refugees, including Syrians, to pay back their travel loans.
  • As the Religion News Service reported earlier this month, the nine resettlement agencies contracted by the State Department to help refugees in the U.S. make more than $5 million a year in commissions on refugee debt collection.
  • In regard to safe zones, “The Department of Defense has not proposed an option [to establish a Syrian safe zone] that does not have a very significant contribution/investment of U.S. air power. That air power would be diverted from the fight against ISIL. The fight against ISIL, which is an extraordinary virulent terrorist group, is a threat to us and our allies and the neighbors. So, that is the first priority. It is also extremely difficult to patrol and to protect these safe zones on the ground, and that would require a very significant investment of ground forces of some sort. But the primary reason is the investment of air power.” Ambassador Anne Patterson, responding to a question from Rep. Yoho about the cost of establishing a safe zone in Syria, House Foreign Affairs Committee, November 4, 2015.

Claim #10:  The influx of refugees into local communities presents an unfunded mandate and can create significant disruptions for local school districts and other civil services. (Amarillo News Channel 10, Oct 2015)


  • The U.S. refugee resettlement program is a federally funded program, as well as a public-private partnership.
  • Nationwide, research has shown that refugees are contributors to local economies.
  • Through an analysis of 505 metropolitan areasfrom 2005 to 2011, economist Jack Strauss at the University of Denver finds that an increasing number of immigrants moving to an area leads to significantly higher employment growth and a decline in the unemployment rate. Immigrants’ self-employment appears to be the mechanism through which immigration positively impacts job opportunities in a metro area. – Taken from a report by Jack Strauss at the University of Denver and Hailong Quian at Saint Louis University published on January 23, 2014:
  • Another study showed that immigrants started more than 25% of all businesses in seven of eight sectors of the economy that the U.S, government expects to grow the fastest over the next decade. – Published in a report from the Partnership for a New American Econonmy released in August of 2012:
  • The U.S. refugee resettlement system emphasizes early self-sufficiency through employment, and most refugees are employed within their first six months of arriving to the United States. – Taken from a report by Randy Capps and Kathleen Newland at the Migration Policy Institute released in June of 2015:
  • In fact, refugee men are employed at a higher rate than their U.S.-born peers, with 66.67% of refugee men employed during the 2009-11 period, compared to 60 percent of U.S.-born men. More than half of refugee women were employed during the same period – the same rate as U.S.-born women. The high employment of refugees increases their tax payments and other economic contributions, while decreasing their dependency on public assistance and services over the long run. – Taken from the same report cited above:
  • Refugee orgs only resettle refugees in communities that are accepting and welcoming where they know those being resettled will be integrated in the communities. Often refugees are resettled to be with family members already in the US.


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