White House: Refugee Screening Process 'Takes As Long As We Need It To'

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Monday, November 23, 2015 - 7:44pm
Updated: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 9:44am

The Obama administration hosted a call with reporters Monday to highlight the rigorous security checks that refugees from Syria and Iraq must already go through, and the importance of welcoming these refugees.

The call came days after the House of Representatives passed a bill to restrict the admission of refugees coming from Syria and Iraq and subject them to more security checks. President Barack Obama opposes the bill.

The backlash against admitting refugees from these countries began with governors across the country, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.

In a call with reporters, the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, explained the multiple database checks, in-person interviews and screenings refugees from Iraq and Syria already must go through. He said before this recent push for more screening, critics already call the United States' current process too slow.

"Our response is it takes as long as we need it to. To ensure not only the eligibility and admissibility of the individual, but to ensure the safety and security of the American public, which is here in the Department of Homeland Security and across the government, our greatest focus," he said.

The refugee screening process currently takes 18-24 months on average.

Updated 11/24/2015 at 9:43 a.m.