By James O. Diaz, Contributing Writer

Since the terrorist attacks in France, Beirut, and several other countries, some Americans and Europeans feel that allowing refugees into their countries could potentially be a risk for their citizens.In response to these attacks, 31 United States governors have issued statements saying they would bar the refugees in their states because of fears that violent extremists will use the opportunity to enter the U.S. Legally.

States do not have the authority to bar refugees, but can ask the State Department to not send refugees there. Once the refugees arrive in the state, governors can withhold state funds to help them learn English, get job training, or help their kids succeed at school.

In over four years, more than 250,000 Syrians have been killed, 7.6 million were displaced and nearly 4 million fled the country.

Ahmed Abaza, a Syrian international student at BCC was asked what his thoughts were on the statements GOP candidates Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush about accepting only refugees that are Christians.“It’s kinda silly considering it’s a free country and you are free to choose your religion, so why would they pick a specific religion?,” said Abaza. “It’s [Syria] just like any other country, and if a country is in war, you should accept the refugees. Check their criminal records, just do the background checks and if they’re safe then let them in,” said Ahmed Abaza.

BCC student Ahmed Abaza supports the protection of Syrian refugees//Jessica Rodriguez

BCC student Ahmed Abaza supports the protection of Syrian refugees//Jessica Rodriguez

“It’s frustrating to see [ISIS] killing innocent people whether they are Muslim or non Muslim; they have no right to kill any human being. It’s very shameful that they share the same religion as I do,” said Mariam Kaddour, another student of Bergen Community College. “I don’t believe that Syrian refugees are a threat to this country. We all came as immigrants and in Islam we believe in peace,” she added.

New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie (R) made the following statement on the issue of Syrian Refugees: “As Governor, my number one obligation and sworn oath is to keep the residents of New Jersey safe. The threat posed to New Jersey by ISIS is very real. I write to inform you that I will not accept any refugee from Syria in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Paris.” In an interview with Hugh Hewitt, a radio talk host, when asked if he would make an exception for “orphan under the age of five” Christie said no.

Ray Cieszynski, a BCC student, expressed concern to embrace refugees . “In my opinion, it’s bad to bring them in (Syrian Refugees). We have too many problems in this country. We have to worry about our borders, we have people sneaking in through south,” “President Obama wants to bring 10,000 Syrians, and unbeknownst to him, we could be bringing in a terrorist who can easily sneak into this country and pass the security checks,” he added. “We have communities with homeless veterans, homeless people in general, and adding ten thousand refugees will make problems bigger. If we’re not providing for our own people how are we providing for them?” said Cieszynski.

BCC student Ray Cieszynski expresses his concerns regarding the Syrian refugees//Henry Fowler

BCC student Ray Cieszynski expresses his concerns regarding the Syrian refugees//Henry Fowler

Syrian refugees have to undergo the highest level of background and security checks of any category of traveler to the United States. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) explains the very thorough process which refugees have to undergo. For a refugee to enter the country, they must receive a referral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for consideration as a refugee.

The three priority groups are broken into Referral, Groups of Special Concern, and Family Reunification. Referrals and Groups of Special Concern have to go thorough consideration from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an especially trained non-government organization. Groups of Family Reunification must have a family member in the U.S. who submits an Affidavit of Relationship (AOR) on behalf of a qualified family member from Syria.

Over 23,000 Syrian refugee applicants have been referred to the (USCIS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by (UNHCR) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. However, of the approximate 23,000 refugees, only about 2,000 have been admitted.

The security screening process that refugees undergo include National Counterterrorism Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and Department of Defense. The screening process includes a deep background check, biographic and biometric information will be collected, checked and crosschecked with law enforcement and intelligence databases. Refugees will have to pass an in-depth interview, including an interview with a specially trained DHS (Department of Homeland Security) officer to determine if eligible. If eligible, they will receive a medical evaluation.
The United States has had a long history of accepting refugees. Between the years 1948 and 1950, approximately 400,000 refugees were accepted in the country, and approximately 825,000 refugees were accepted between the years 1953 and 2012.