HIGH POINT, N.C. – The recent terror attacks in Paris have sparked a national debate about whether it is safe to continue accepting refugees from Syria into the United States.
One of the big arguments against allowing Syrian refugees, according to Governor Pat McCrory, is that the state receives almost no information about the individuals when they come to North Carolina.
“North Carolina has received 59 refugees from Syria. To date, we have received little or no security information about those refugees on their backgrounds, even possibly their names in certain circumstances. We are asking for additional collaboration and basic information such as where these refugees are now residing,” said McCrory during a press conference in Charlotte Monday.
However, Andrew Timbie, the director of World Relief High Point, says the Governor’s statement is “completely false.”
Timbie says refugees go through the most rigorous screening process of any immigrant into the U.S.
He described the refugee resettlement process, which usually takes two years or longer.
According to Timbie, the process begins when a person proves they are a refugee to a group, like the UN. Then, they must register at a Refugee Processing Center. He says if the refugee wants to come to the United States, they must go through in-person interviews with Customs and Immigration. At that point, extensive biographical and health data is gathered, which is then processed through inter-agency checks. Timbie says that includes counter-terrorism checks. Once that process is complete, the information is sent to a central database in Washington, DC. The refugees are then referred to various resettlement agencies, like World Relief, which receive each person’s information.
World Relief staff members showed FOX8 how each person’s information is input into an online refugee database set up by North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Timbie says the state receives federal funding to help refugees start a new life in North Carolina, where they are supposed to be free from persecution. He added that refugees are not the people Americans should be afraid of.
“They’re fearful of terrorism infiltrating our country, and we agree. We say, of course, we’re all fearful of terrorism entering our country. Look what has happened consistently. The problem is we’re going after the wrong system,” said Timbie.
He says he is personally more concerned with the United States’ procedures of accepting asylum seekers, tourism or student visas, and work permits.
FOX8 contacted Governor McCrory’s press office Thursday regarding the state’s access to refugee information. Press Secretary Graham Wilson declined to comment and referred questions to DHHS.
DHHS confirmed the state does get some refugee information from resettlement agencies within 30 days of a refugee’s arrival.
Kendra Gerlach, director of the Office of Communications, said the concern is the lack of information the state receives directly from the federal government. She added there is an ongoing discussion on the issue.