The White House said Friday the arrest of two Iraqi refugees on terrorism charges won’t deter President Obama’s plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees this year.
“I know that these kinds of situations are likely to prompt calls from the other side … that suggest that the United States should somehow impose some sort of religious test or a test based on an individual’s ethnicity, to limit their ability to enter the United States,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “That doesn’t represent who we are as a country and most importantly, it’s not going to keep us safe.”
Mr. Earnest said no refugee is able to “short circuit” the U.S. vetting process, and that the arrests of the two men on Thursday “are good examples of how the Department of Homeland Security, the intel community, our law enforcement and other national security agencies work effectively together to keep us safe.”
“Individuals who are admitted to the United States through the refugee process undergo the most rigorous screening of any individual that enters the United States,” he said, referring to in-person interviews, biometric screening and other steps.
Prosecutors said Aws Mohammed Younis Al-Jayab, a Palestinian born in Iraq who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Syria in October 2012, later traveled back to Syria to train with extremists, then lied to immigration officials about it later.
Officials also indicted Omar Faraj Saeed Al Hardan, a Palestinian born in Iraq, on three counts of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State.
Mr. Earnest said the screening of refugees “is not something you do willy-nilly but — or based on a person’s identity or their religion.”
“But it is something that can be — it is information that can be used to investigate individuals if their behavior warrants it,” he said.