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Immigration has been the cornerstone of Donald Trump's campaign, so it was not surprising he raised the issue again in his acceptance speech for the Republican presidential nomination. He attacked Hillary Clinton’s plans to accept refugees and promised to choke off all immigration from countries who might be sending terrorists to the United States.
"We must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place," he told the crowd in Cleveland on July 21.
"My opponent has called for a radical 550 percent increase in Syrian, think of this, think of this. ... A 550 percent increase in Syrian refugees on top of existing massive refugee flows coming into our country already under the leadership of President Obama," he said. "She proposes this despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from. I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people."
We've addressed these issues in several other fact-checks. The bottom line: Trump is wrong to suggest that screening isn't done and correct when he says Clinton has recommended a 550 percent increase.
Let's go through the relevant points.
The migration of thousands of Syrians fleeing a war that has killed more than 200,000 has been called the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II.
The fear — here and in some of the countries that have accepted them – is that some of those people might be terrorists posing as refugees.
Compared to other countries, the United States has accepted very few – about 2,000 last year, for example. Half are children. Only about 2 percent are single men of combat age, the mostly likely demographic for a would-be terrorist.
President Barack Obama said in 2015 that he would increase the number to 10,000.
Then, during a Sept. 20, 2015, appearance on CBS' Face the Nation, Clinton said that, given the scope of the problem, "I think the United States has to do more, and I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000, and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in."
That's the 550 percent increase Trump and the Republicans have been talking about. That part of Trump's statement is accurate.
But contrary to Trump's claim that "there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from," the refugees are already screened, although like any security program, there are no guarantees. Said Raj Shah, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, "The head of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center in the Obama Administration have all testified that because of the lack of databases in Syria, existing procedures cannot effectively ensure that ISIS-linked terrorists are not posing as refugees and coming into the United States."
According to the U.S. refugees admissions program, created in 1980 and retooled after 9/11, a would-be refugee must first get a referral from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a U.S. embassy or a recognized non-government organization. The U.N. process takes four to 10 months, and only about 1 percent are recommended for resettlement.
And that's before the United States begins its probe, where the names, biographical information and fingerprints are run through federal terrorism and criminal databases. In addition, the refugees are interviewed by Department of Homeland Security officials. If they pass those hurdles, they also have to pass medical screening, have a sponsor agency, pass "cultural orientation" classes and be examined for another security clearance.
As we reported in November, Syrian refugees are singled out for an additional level of scrutiny, with their documents cross-referenced with classified and unclassified information.
Only then, after a process that takes one to two years, or longer, can they come to the United States.
There could be gaps in some of the information because they are fleeing war, but if ISIS or another terrorist group wanted to get someone in the United States, experts told us, it would be faster and easier to arrange to fly them in as a tourist.
Trump said Hillary Clinton "has called for a radical 550 percent increase in Syrian ... refugees ... despite the fact that there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from."
The 550 percent figure is correct. To say that there's no way to screen them to find out who they are or where they come from ignores the extensive screening they undergo.
We rate the claim Half True.
PolitiFact, "PolitiFact Sheet: 5 questions about Syrian refugees," Nov. 19, 2015; "Wrong: Donald Trump says there's 'no system to vet' refugees," and "Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton wants to let 500 percent more Syrians into the U.S.," both June 13, 2016; and "Newt Gingrich says Hillary Clinton wants to increase number of Syrian refugees by 500 percent," July 20, 2016
CBS News, "Hillary Clinton: U.S. should take 65,000 Syrian refugees," Sept. 20, 2015 and "Hillary Clinton outlines '360-degree' strategy on homeland security," Dec. 15, 2015
State Department, "Background Briefing on Refugee Screening and Admissions," Nov. 17, 2015
HillaryClinton.com, "Hillary Clinton Lays Out Comprehensive Plan To Bolster Homeland Security," Dec. 15, 2015
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