Quantcast

Utah law enforcement to welcome Syrian refugees and help them assimilate

First Published      Last Updated Dec 07 2015 10:14 pm


Screening » Utah commissioner of public safety says federal vetting is thorough and well-established.

Syrian refugees relocated to Utah in coming months should be welcomed and encouraged to assimilate quickly, not ostracized or surveilled, said Utah Department of Public Safety Commission Keith Squires, who reviewed the federal screening process at the request of Gov. Gary Herbert.

Squires received the governor's approval Monday to reassign agents with the state Bureau of Investigation to work with the relocation team, helping every refugee understand state laws and how to get a driver license.

He wants them to have a positive interaction with a law-enforcement officer.

''Just some things that are also proactive and helpful for someone who is coming here from somewhere else,'' Squires said in an interview Monday.




A spokeswoman with one of the major resettlement organizations agreed the approach is reasonable.

''If this is what helps the community help feel safer and if it is also a way to help our refugees better understand the community they are moving to, it is a good opportunity for us,'' said Danielle Stamos, a spokeswoman with Catholic Community Services in Utah, one of two refugee resettlement organizations in the state.

She said refugees are seeking a safe place for their families and they want to be accepted by the community, and she sees strengthening bonds with local law enforcement as a positive step.

Utah has resettled just 12 Syrian refugees, comprising two families, though the state is expected to receive a few hundred more between March and September.

After the Paris terrorist attack, more than 30 governors said they don't want to see refugees moved to their states. Herbert was one of just two GOP governors to say he'd still welcome refugees as long as the federal screening process is tough. He has since endorsed a piece of federal legislation that would require the heads of national security organizations to personally sign off on each refugee from Syria and Iraq. It has passed the House, but hasn't come up in the Senate and is opposed by President Barack Obama.

''The recommendation from our Department of Public Safety to increase the rigor of the refugee-screening process is a common-sense step in the right direction,'' Herbert said, while expressing his frustration with Obama's threat to veto the federal bill.

At Herbert's request, Squires reached out to high-ranking officials at the White House, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State and the FBI.

''The overall federal process is very established, very thorough, very layered,'' Squires said, noting that the screening often takes 18 to 24 months.

Potential refugees, identified by the United Nations refugee agency, must provide their identifying information and fingerprints. For Syrian refugees, they must also provide an iris scan.

This information is repeatedly checked through security databases. The applicants then undergo interviews and potentially medical checks before they are accepted.

The United States focuses on granting refugee status to women and children, those with medical disabilities and people who have been tortured.

Obama has ordered an increase in the number of refugees accepted from 70,000 to 85,000 in the next year, with at least 10,000 coming from Syria.

Of that total, Utah is expecting roughly 1,200 refugees and around 200 of them will likely come from Syria.

Squires said: ''There is nothing that I could check here in the state of Utah that would add to what is already taking place by the federal authorities.'' So with that in mind, he wants to make refugees feel welcomed, believing that may reduce the chance a refugee could become disaffected and radicalized.

» Next page... Single page

 

COMMENTS
VIEW/POST COMMENT      ()