Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Our bloated security bureaucracy – do overlapping layers, redundancies prevent us from helping our friends around the world?

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 22, 2012

Is the reason that we’re not meeting our moral obligation to resettle Iraqis who risked their lives to help us that our security bureaucracy has so many overlapping layers and redundancies that it’s almost impossible to navigate the system? In the post-9/11 era, under the Department of Homeland Security, one government agency doesn’t necessarily recognize another’s security checks. One refugee security check will often expire before the next is completed. Trudy Rubin, an Opinion Columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, gives her take on what is going on:

…Consider this: In 2008, Congress mandated 25,000 special immigrant visas (known as SIVs) for Iraqis who helped us over a period of five years; fewer than 4,500 have been issued. According to State Department figures, 719 were granted in fiscal 2011 and 569 during the first six months of fiscal 2012…

…Many Iraqis who helped Americans have chosen to apply for U.S. visas through another…refugee program. As of last July, there were 39,000 Iraqis on that waiting list. In the first six months of fiscal 2012, only 2,500 were admitted.

And most applicants have been waiting one to three years.

So what’s gone wrong? Why can’t we meet our moral obligation to Iraqis who risked their lives to help us?

My answer: We have a security bureaucracy that’s gone bonkers. In the post-9/11 era, under the Department of Homeland Security, we’ve set up so many overlapping layers and redundancies that it’s almost impossible to navigate the system. “One agency doesn’t necessarily recognize another’s security checks,” says Carey. “Often one check will expire before the next is completed.”

Take the case of A.M., who worked for the U.S. Army from 2009-11. He’s been waiting more than a year for his security clearance. Because of the wait, his U.S. Embassy-required medical exam “expired” and he had to take it again, paying another $400. Meanwhile, he is living in hiding, under death threat, afraid even to visit his wife and year-old daughter…

Or take A.L., who has been waiting for more than three years, took his medical exam three times, and fingerprints twice. The embassy gave him a date of a year ago, on which he was supposed to travel, but on that day he was told more security checks were needed. He had sold his business and his car, and is running out of money.

We are threatened with death every moment,” he wrote me. “Is this what we deserve because we worked with U.S. forces. Please. Please. Help us.”

That will require the White House to tame the Kafkaesque Homeland Security bureaucracy, something that still hasn’t happened and probably needs presidential intervention. In the meantime, thousands of Iraqis suffer in limbo and America’s credibility takes a further beating.

If we don’t [move on this], it will have a chilling effect on the willingness of people around the world to work with our missions,” Blinken admitted… Read more here

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2 Responses to “Our bloated security bureaucracy – do overlapping layers, redundancies prevent us from helping our friends around the world?”

  1. AWOW, Osman said

    My family is a genuine vulnerable refugee from a Somali minority group, living in Kenya since 1993. I had worked with JVA for 3 years and also helped for USCIS, DHS in a critical situation period as a volunteer interpreter, which resulted to our group of refugee interpreters led by me to face a constant fear and intimidation, since the special advanced DHS Officer recommended the refugee interpreters to be granted and approved a refugee resettlement application and promised quick protection on 2004. So, my family and I only remain in a limbo and stranded situation in Kenya for a decade pending our case on review by USCIS.

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