Delray Beach refugee organization say current screening process - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Delray Beach refugee organization say current screening process works

DELRAY BEACH - One advocacy group says the current screening process for refugees works.

Church World Service has an office in Delray Beach. Its CEO calls the decisions by several governors, including Florida's, to stop using tax dollars to help Syrian refugees settle in America a "knee-jerk reaction."

The debate on how to handle refugees leaving the violence in Syria reached a high when reports surfaced saying one of the people involved in Friday's attacks on Paris may have entered the country with a group of Syrian refugees.    

“For these governors to falsely assert that the U.S. refugee admissions program places their states at risk is utterly preposterous. Refugees are the single most scrutinized and vetted individuals to travel to the United States…" said Church World Service President and CEO Rev. John L. McCullough in a statement.

Images of people fleeing Syria in the thousands hits close to home for Gary Lucien.

"It makes me think of myself, when I first came here," says Lucien.

He left Haiti for the U.S. 32 years ago to escape a dictatorship. He says Syrians leaving violence deserve the same opportunities he got.

But Lucien says he's not surprised some governors are calling for stricter screenings for people seeking refugee status.

"It's good for the American government to screen the people if they're going to come here to make sure they don't make it dangerous for the American people," Lucien points out.

Silvio Padilla runs the Delray Beach office of Church World Service. His team helps refugees settle in the area.

"They [refugees] have been your neighbors, they have been your friends, probably, now it's in the spotlight," he says.

Padilla explains the U.S. government has an extensive screening process for refugees, sometimes taking two years.

Refugees who are approved are paired with groups like Padilla's, who meet them at the airport, make sure they have a place to live, and support them.

"People see in the media what's happening in Europe and maybe in their heads they think that's happening here. Refugee families don't just flock in unexpectedly," he points out.

Padilla says his office works with about 125 refugees each year from all over the world, including places like Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cuba.

He says his office has not received any refugee cases from Syria since the country's crisis began. Governor Scott says Florida received a request to settle 425 Syrian refugees in the state.

Today, U.S. Representative Tom Rooney cosponsored the Refugee Resettlement Oversight and Security Act. The proposed law would force the president to get approval from Congress when setting the limit for the number of refugees the country will accept.

The bill also gives the FBI and other public safety agencies the power to reject a refugee application.

Rooney calls it "common sense" adding "If one of these guys is a potential jihadist, then Americans are going to die and that's just not acceptable."

The republican, whose district includes Okeechobee County, says the briefs he's received in committee meetings don't reassure him agencies have totally weeded out terrorists from applicants. He'd rather be safe than sorry.

Senator Bill Nelson released this statement. “The attacks in Paris further illustrate the threat ISIS poses to our national security. And while I believe it’s important that we as a country remain compassionate to those in need, I also believe that the security of our nation must always come first. The screening process takes up to two years, so I have asked the administration for additional details on its plan and I want to know how they will screen these refugees to ensure that there are absolutely no potential national security or terrorism concerns.”

Representative Patrick Murphy said the following, "Our number one priority is always to keep the American people safe. We need incredibly tough safety and security requirements on any refugees entering our country in order to protect our nation. As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am working closely with my colleagues and national security officials to make sure we prioritize the safety of all American citizens while still allowing America to be a beacon of freedom around the world."

Representative Lois Frankel says safety has to be the number one priority. She says as she understands it, the current screening process for refugees is very extensive.

She points out if the world turns its back on the Syrian refugees, they may feel hopeless and alienated, thus more prone to radicalization by terrorists in their home country.

A spokesperson from Representative Ted Deutch's office says they have not received much feedback from constituents about the topic.

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