For Refugee Entry into the United States


The Full Text of the Graphic:

The Screening Process for Refugee Entry Into the United States

Recurrent vetting: Throughout this process, pending applications continue to be checked against terrorist databases, to ensure new, relevant terrorism information has not come to light. If a match is found, that case is paused for further review. Applicants who continue to have no flags continue the process. If there is doubt about whether an applicant poses a security risk, they will not be admitted.

  1. Many refugee applicants identify themselves to the U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR. UNHCR, then:
    • ​​Collects identifying documents
    • Performs initial assessment
      • Collects biodata: name, address, birthday, place of birth, etc.
      • Collects biometrics: iris scans (for Syrians, and other refugee populations in the Middle East)
    • Interviews applicants to confirm refugee status and the need for resettlement
      • Initial information checked again
    • Only applicants who are strong candidates for resettlement move forward (less than 1% of global refugee population).
  2. Applicants are received by a federally-funded Refugee Support Center (RSC):​​
    • Collects identifying documents
    • Creates an applicant file
    • Compiles information to conduct biographic security checks
  3. Biographic security checks start with enhanced interagency security checks

    Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States.

    • ​​U.S. security agencies screen the candidate, including:
      • National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community
      • FBI
      • Department of Homeland Security
      • State Department
    • The screening looks for indicators, like:
      • Information that the individual is a security risk
      • Connections to known bad actors
      • Outstanding warrants/immigration or criminal violations
    • DHS conducts an enhanced review of Syrian cases, which may be referred to USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate for review. Research that is used by the interviewing officer informs lines of question related to the applicant’s eligibility and credibility.
  4. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/USCIS interview:
    • Interviews are conducted by USCIS Officers specially trained for interviews​​
    • Fingerprints are collected and submitted (biometric check)
    • Re-interviews can be conducted if fingerprint results or new information raises questions. If new biographic information is identified by USCIS at an interview, additional security checks on the information are conducted. USCIS may place a case on hold to do additional research or investigation. Otherwise, the process continues.
  5. Biometric security checks:
    • Applicant’s fingerprints are taken by U.S. government employees
      • Fingerprints are screened against the FBI’s biometric database.
      • Fingerprints are screened against the DHS biometric database, containing watch-list information and previous immigration encounters in the U.S. and overseas.
      • Fingerprints are screened against the U.S. Department of Defense biometric database, which includes fingerprint records captured in Iraq and other locations.
    • If not already halted, this is the end point for cases with security concerns. Otherwise, the process continues.
  6. Medical check:
    • The need for medical screening is determined​​
    • This is the end point for cases denied due to medical reasons. Refugees may be provided medical treatment for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.
  7. Cultural orientation and assignment to domestic resettlement locations:
    • ​​Applicants complete cultural orientation classes.
    • An assessment is made by a U.S.-based non-governmental organization to determine the best resettlement location for the candidate(s). Considerations include:
      • Family; candidates with family in a certain area may be placed in that area.
      • Health; a candidate with asthma may be matched to certain regions.
    • A location is chosen.
  8. Travel:
    • ​​International Organization for Migration books travel
    • Prior to entry in the United States, applicants are subject to:
      • Screening from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center-Passenger
      • The Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight Program
    • This is the end point for some applicants. Applicants who have no flags continue the process.
  9. U.S. Arrival:
    • ​​All refugees are required to apply for a green card within a year of their arrival to the United States, which triggers:
      • Another set of security procedures with the U.S. government.
    • Refugees are woven into the rich fabric of American society!

‎—prepared by Amy Pope, Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security

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A writer’s palette

IMG_3986 I created the image above as the students suggested the tools a writer uses in order to support their Why. I am retiring this year from teaching and one of the things I will miss a lot is writing on the blackboard.

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First snow of the season, first meal of the season inside (salmon, rice, red cabbage and raisins) in front of IB’s Japanese window screens because it is too cold to eat on the back porch, first Satsuma mandarins of the season for dessert (first tasted in Satsuma-Sendai, Japan in 2012).

I am grateful.


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Our Mourning is broken: Paris and Privilege

Beirut, Nov 12, 2015 4:02pm, Getty Images

Beirut, Nov 12, 2015 4:02pm, Getty Images

The following is the post I wanted to write. And then I ran across this piece by George Arnette. I don’t think I could have said it any better than he and so it is posted below:  

Our Mourning is Broken: Paris and Privilege

by George Arnett

November 14, 2015 in

We watched as Paris was under siege of an outbreak of violence. The hearts of Parisians are aflame. The dregs of humanity reached into the bosom of a city and clenched its heart in acts of terror.

I try to have faith in humanity and its ability to prevail in dark times like these, when people are terrorized and taking cover. It’s heartbreaking to read updates of death tolls and feel the panic in the air. People like the ones responsible for the heinous attack chip away at my hope.

However, the aftermath of these situations – the fearmongering, the Islamophobia, the xenophobia – also reveal the lack of humanity in the world. When we hear of these tragedies, we quickly look for the target of blame. Without questioning, without confirmation, we blamed Muslims for the attack. And now that those fears have been confirmed, we lash out with our bigotry. People of Christian Faith are rushing to condemn and antagonize innocent people who had nothing to do with the attacks, as if Christianity has not often been the sword that has left rivers of blood in the street. We call for vengeance masquerading as justice, usurping the power of the God we claim to honor.

What happened in Paris is despicable. My heart goes out to them. But, while mourning the victims of this tragedy, I understand that the world’s call for collective mourning is due to our obsession with the preservation of whiteness and the romanticized ideals associated with the city of lights. There are people of color in Paris, but the world’s mourning is predicated on the idea of Paris as a white city. Paris, as a symbol, represents the white western world which rarely knows – and is terrible at dealing with – its vulnerability. It’s important that the attackers are brown people because the victims are representative of whiteness and the innocence we associate with it. Mourning the deaths of Parisians isn’t a problem. The problem lies in our unwillingness to confront the conditioning which has allowed us to only view certain people as victims when terror strikes.

Lebanon experienced a deadly attack that is getting little to no coverage. We are not changing our profile pics to the Lebanese flag. Nor did we have the option to honor Kenya’s flag after the Garissa University College shooting or an American flag after the massacre of nine innocent people in Charleston. Because we are taught that brown people killing brown people is not senseless; it’s expected and it’s normal. We, though most of us have no real ties to France, have immediately lifted them in our hearts. This is something we should do. However, the lack of mourning for the deaths of the innocent people in Syria, Baghdad, Beirut – and wherever else violence has touched – shows our bias and how ready we are to canonize and pray for a select few. We pray for those in the west, those that personify our western exceptionalism and ideals rooted in what whiteness designates as worthy of attention. We are taught to mourn with Paris, but not with Beirut or even Newark or Chicago. Social media outlets implement ways to honor certain victims, but not others. Parisians are cloaked in martyrdom while Lebanese are met with silence and blame as they await the coming of our mourning. That in itself is terrorism, for it teaches people that they aren’t valued. It places a hierarchy on who is to be grieved and is contradictory to any assertions that all lives matter.

I stand with Paris, but I also stand with Syrian refugees whose plight is only worsening due to our shortsightedness and our desire to bundle their lives with the lives of the people from whom they are running, as if anyone blamed German Jews for the Nazi occupation, though they were all German by nationality.

Stand with Paris, but stand with all terrorized peoples, not just those who the media deems worthy. Stand with those on our own soil who are reeling from the effects of oppression and violence. Red white and blue banners and Eiffel Tower vacation selfies are not solidarity. Solidarity is working to lift the people in every corner of the world who suffer under the weight of oppression. Solidarity is ending terrorism on all fronts, whether it’s fueled by racism, capitalism, misogyny, religious extremism, queer/trans antagonism, or classism.

Stand with Paris. But stand for more than that. Stand for the dismantling of regimes and systems which leave people angry and desperate while also funding, arming, and facilitating the terror we claim to hate.  Pray for the families of the victims. Send love and light. Honor the dead, but also do more to lift up those who continue to live and suffer through these atrocities while feeling abandoned and ignored.

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Au nom de quoi?

 A rose placed in a bullet hole in a restaurant window the day after a series of deadly attacks in Paris. The note reads "In the Name of What?" Credit: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

A rose placed in a bullet hole in a restaurant window the day after a series of deadly attacks in Paris. The note reads “In the Name of What?” Credit: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

from W.H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939”

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

(thanks JD for the inspiration)
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Veterans Day

A military parade with crowds of excited spectators along 5th Avenue, in celebration of Armistice day and peace in Europe following World War One, New York, 1918. (Photo by Paul Thompson/FPG/Getty Images)

A military parade with crowds of excited spectators along 5th Avenue, in celebration of Armistice day and peace in Europe following World War One, New York, 1918. (Photo by Paul Thompson/FPG/Getty Images)

Today is Veterans Day, originally celebrated as Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11am. I have often felt the conceit of the “elevens” strange and somewhat unsettling. The armistice had in fact been decided at 5 am that morning of the eleventh, but the Allies insisted that 11:00 be maintained so there was time for the word to go out to all commanders. I have wondered about who on the staff inside Foch’s railway car in Compiegne, 30 miles north of Paris, first noticed that it was the eleventh day of the eleventh month and cleverly suggested 11:00 for it all to end.

The fighting did, in fact, continue until 11:00, some claiming that it went even well beyond this time limit. And it was fierce fighting, almost as if all were trying to use up all their stores of ammunition, a “farewell to arms.” It is estimated that nearly 11,000 died on that final day, in a last flurry of pointless aggression.

The last day was a microcosm of what the war had been for 4 years—a lot of lives destroyed for no purpose. It is hard to fathom why the commanders and soldiers were compelled to fight to the bitterest end, firing up to and beyond the 11:00 deadline, in a war that had already taken 20 million lives. One story recalls the Germans waving allied soldiers back indicating the war was over and the allies continuing to aggressively move forward causing the Germans to fire back (the last American soldier to die was killed in this attack, Private Henry Gunter–perhaps even the very last soldier to die including all the armies involved). Some commanders sent their men “over the top” one more time in those last hours. Americans especially suffered heavy casualties on the last day of the war because General Pershing believed that the terms of the Armistice were soft on the Germans and that the Germans needed to be taught a final lesson, so commanders were urged to fight until the last possible moment.

Americans lost 3,000 men on the last day which tremendously angered the American public once they learned of this statistic. Pershing himself was questioned before a House Committee on Military Affairs which was trying to determine whether senior military officers were acting “appropriately” on the last day of the war. Pershing never apologized for his orders and repeated that the Germans had gotten off easily in the armistice and that he did not trust that they would stop the fighting at the end. He said he did what any “judicious commander” would do and that even Marshall Foch, the Allied supreme commander, had urged all to “pursue the field greys (Germans) until the last minute.” Pershing was never charged with negligence.

On this Veterans Day, originally commemorating the Armistice of WWI, it is good and important to remember and honor the veterans who have placed their lives in great danger with patriotic intention and innocent trust in politicians, veterans who have made tremendous sacrifices in the name of democracy.

But it is equally important on this day to remember the ultimate folly of war.

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A t-shirt that a middle schooler wore to school today


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