As anti-Syrian sentiment continues to spread in the wake of the Paris attacks, more refugees are looking to the United States for asylum. Twice this week small groups of Syrian refugees have presented themselves at the Texas-Mexico border.
Five Syrians arrived Friday at Laredo’s busy checkpoint. “Officers took the group into custody and as a standard procedure, checked their identities against numerous law enforcement and national security related databases,” reads a Homeland Security statement released the following day. “Records checks revealed no derogatory information about the individuals.”
The small group was then placed into ICE’s (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) hands for placement at a detention center. Unlike the group of Pakistanis and Afghans caught trying to sneak in through Arizona’s border on Thursday, the Syrians presented themselves legally, asking for asylum.
Another group of Syrians – two women, two men, and four kids – presented themselves to Laredo officials on Tuesday. “They surrendered at a port of entry and are seeking asylum. There’s no evidence they tried to enter illegally,” says Border Patrol spokesman Shawn Moran.
Some worry that these small groups herald a flood of refugees similar to the force that entered Germany earlier this year. “The fact that Syrians can reach our southern border is extremely concerning to us. This demonstrates that a clear pipeline exists that allows people from Syria to reach our southern border,” says Hector Garza of the Laredo Border Patrol.
Garza, representing the Border Patrol’s union, has requested more Border Patrol agents be hired to secure the border and ensure that inspections of Syrian refugees are “error-proof.”
“Screening and processing systems can quickly become overwhelmed, as evidenced by the unaccompanied juvenile crisis in South Texas. Corners cannot be cut and the proper resources need to be in place,” says Garza. “The margin for error is small because it only takes a few to inflict great harm.”
While numerous state governors have refused to accept Syrian refugees, they did not comment on Syrian asylum seekers. As of June this year, there have only been 104 asylum cases filed by Syrians entering the US. However, those working with the migrants report that many are hoping to leave Europe for the United States, arriving via Mexico. Once they reach the US border, these refugees will be subjected to the same screening processes used for all other immigrants.
The process has been stepped up recently due to a surge of migrants coming from Central America. Some are detained while others are released into the country with ankle bracelets.
Meanwhile, House Republicans are trying to stop Obama’s plan to import 10,000 Syrians during 2016 and 100,000 refugees from numerous countries during the following year with the American SAFE act, which would cut the funding needed to accomplish Obama’s Syrian resettlement program.
“In the days since the attack on Paris, some have taken the narrow view that protecting Americans from ISIL mandates that we turn our back on those most at risk to the terrorist group – the men, women, and children forced to flee their homes and families, their schools and communities,” argues Homeland Security presidential deputy Amy Pope. “The administration rejects the flawed view that we can’t ensure our own safety while also welcoming refugees desperately seeking their own safety. The truth is: America can and must do both.”