State Department 'surge operation' will compress refugee screening to a few months

The State Department is staffing up in order to try and meet President Obama’s goal of settling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States. President Obama set the goal last September but CNN reported earlier this month the administration was way behind schedule:

Halfway through the year, only about 1,300 Syrian refugees — or some 13% — have been admitted…

The State Department and other agencies involved in vetting Syrian refugees say, however, that they are taking steps to speed up the process.

The new, speedier process is now underway. The Hill reports the State Department hopes to bring in about 1,500 refugees a month to meet the president’s goal by September:

The State Department says it has fallen behind schedule in meting Obama’s goal partly due to a lack of personnel available to interview refugees.

It is now doing a “surge operation” in Amman, Jordan, that is designed to process the rest of the Syrian refugees in as little as three months and leave them enough time to get to the U.S. before September.

Rep. Ryan Zinke, who wants to slow down the refugee process, points out that when the president announced his goal last year he promised a thorough 12 to 18 month review. Now it seems that process has been cut down to just a few months, though the State Department claims that hasn’t reduced any of the security requirements:

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters after the administration announced the 10,000 figure that the screening process would take “12 to 18 months.”

“That process typically takes 12 to 18 months. And the reason for that process is that the safety and security of the U.S. homeland comes first,” he said on Sept. 10.

The State Department insists it is not cutting corners on security with its new program.

“The security screening in of itself doesn’t take 18 to 24 months,” Bartlett said. “The 18 to 24 month timeframe is what it would normally take us to process a case. And in this instance we’ve compressed the non-security portions of the case work so that it can be shorter.

“The security portions have not been compressed in terms of what they’re looking at, and the standards that they’re using to either approve or disapprove someone,” he added.

This really is a bait and switch by the Obama administration. The White House emphasized the lengthy and “rigorous” process involved, including in this detailed infographic published on the White House website last year. Now, six months later, we learn the entire process can be compressed to a few months if that’s what it takes to meet the president’s goal.