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DHS Secretary Johnson: U.S. should bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country

By Steve Bittenbender

Arlington, VA – Initially, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was supposed to talk about cybersecurity at Cybercon 2015 Wednesday afternoon, but the events of this past weekend altered those plans.

Johnson did speak about the state of cybersecurity and what he would like to see happen in the next year, which will be his last as director. But he opened his remarks by talking with attendees about the terrorist attacks on Paris that have killed 129 people and the reaction by 31 governors who have said they would reject Syrian refugees in their states.

The Obama Administration has agreed to take in up to 10,000 Syrian refugees between now and next September, a significant increase from the nearly 2,000 it accepted this past year. That figure represents less than .003 percent of the total number of people seeking to flee the Middle Eastern country torn apart by civil war.

 “The U.S. can and should adhere to this commitment,” he said.

America is not alone is choosing to take in refugees. Canada has agreed to take in 25,000, Johnson said. French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday reiterated his country would welcome 30,000 people fleeing Syria.

However, over the weekend, the governors of Michigan and Texas both spoke out against accepting Syrians, citing concerns that terrorists may try to come in under the shield of refugee status to inflict an attack on the country. In the ensuing days, they have been joined by governors of more than half of the states. Of the 31 states, all but one is led by a Republican.

“As governor of this state, I have no higher priority than the safety and security of the people of Indiana,” Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said on Twitter Wednesday. “We will maintain this policy until the Administration and Congress acts to ensure the security of our Hoosiers in the state of (Indiana).”

That number will increase in three weeks after Kentucky Gov.-elect Matt Bevin is sworn into office. Bevin issued a statement earlier this week saying he opposed any resettlements until the threat risk is fully vetted.

Safety concerns regarding refugees were heightened after a passport for a Syrian refugee was found near the site of one of the Paris attack. However, the eight individuals who have been named as attackers were either from France or Belgium.

Those seeking to come to the United States are people who are currently being attacked by both the current Syrian regime and Islamic State terrorists. Those approved have been and will go through a “time consuming” process where the applicants are vetted by DHS, the State Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and law enforcement officials, Johnson said.

“It’s important to note that the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees we have accepted and will accept are women, children and families,” he added.

The United States can work to secure the country and welcome in refugees, Johnson said. He told the crowd that a safe city would resemble a prison.

“We can build more walls, install more invasive screens, interrogate more people and make everybody suspicious of each other, but not at the cost of who we are as a nation of people who cherish privacy, value the freedom to travel and associate and celebrate our diversity,” Johnson said.


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