CNN's Rana Foroohar Debunks Fears About Syrian Refugees

Foroohar: Since 9/11 The U.S. Has Accepted 785,000 Refugees, With “A Fraction Of One Percent” Arrested Or Deported

From the November 23 edition of CNN's New Day:

Video file

CHRIS CUOMO (HOST): The crisis is clear. The question is what, if anything, is to be done about it here. The main concern of fact vs. fiction when we go through this is where are they?Here is where refugees have been taken. Rana, how long have we been accepting refugees into this country?

RANA FOROOHAR: Well, many years. Just since 9/11, there's been 785,000 refugees brought in. I mean, many different states, 36 different states, 138 cities. So all over the country, for some time, now.

CUOMO: Since 9/11.

FOROOHAR: Since 9/11.

CUOMO: Almost 800,000. The number of arrests, literally, statistically, impossible to quantify. Maybe two or three.

FOROOHAR: Twelve is the official -- twelve have been either arrested or sent out of the country. But that's a fragment of 1 percent, so it's really a tiny --

CUOMO: And not all on terror charges?

FOROOHAR: Not all on terror charges. The State Department doesn't give out that information.


CUOMO: Now, again, the facts. 785. That's what Rana just told you. About a dozen arrested or removed. So what does this mean? This means that it is hard to make the case to keep them out based on what they've done here.

FOROOHAR: That's right, absolutely.

CUOMO: But what about the fear of the unknown, Rana?

FOROOHAR: Well, there's always the fear of the unknown, but all the research about refugees -- not just in the U.S., but overseas as well -- shows that there's a huge economic impact. A lot of this depends on how they're settled, if they get settled well, are they vetted properly. I mean, it's a process and the process has to be done right for it to work.


CUOMO: You're just adding another if. If they're not established well or resettled well, that's another problem. And Syria, this is the hotbed of war going on at its most destabilized. I look at that picture behind you and I see lots of people who are desperate and angry, and now they may be desperate and angry at me, and that is enough for me to keep them out. How do you combat that with your statistics?

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, I think again you just have to look at the facts. What has happened since 9/11. We have seen a lot of terror in a lot of places. But we have let in, as you say, almost 800,000 people. We've had a tiny fraction of that have any kind of a problem. Most of these people are coming because they want something better. They want to get out of their country. And I mean, as folks like Hillary Clinton have said, it would be really a cruel irony if they're trying to leave a war-torn place. They can't be reestablished in a better country and make a better life for themselves. That would be a sad thing.

CUOMO: Stay. Madam Economist, find us a no-fly zone there in Syria where they want to be, that's their home, and keep them there. No reason for them to come here or anywhere else.

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, that's one argument to be made. But the fact is that Syria is not going to get better anytime soon. You know, these people are really struggling. And, you know, if you look at the economic impact on the positive side of migrants throughout history, countries that take them in tend to do better. I mean, one of the reasons that we think the U.S. does better economically than Europe is that we are a country of immigrants. We have always let migrants in.


CUOMO: What is the reality of, how are you better off getting into this country if you're a bad person up to bad things? Through the refugee program? Because we heard that at least one used it in Paris. We hear about it being used in other countries to sneak through Honduras now, as people in detention.

FOROOHAR: Look, there are many ways for bad people to get into the country, OK? But just another statistic to show you how strict the vetting is. President Obama has said that he would like to bring in another 10,000 migrants this year. Only 2,000 are in the process because it is such a strict process. There's a lot of vetting. They have to be referred by the U.N. High Commission. There's a lot of checking that goes on. So, this goal of 10,000, we're not anywhere near it, yet.

CUOMO: Does any other group that comes into this country through immigration receive a vetting that these refugees do?

FOROOHAR: I don't think that they would. I think that this country -- Syria and Iraq right now, you've got to think that they're getting the most strict vetting that's out there.

CUOMO: The answer according to the State Department is no. Because of the problems they had with Iraq refugees, and they did have problems. They wound up having people coming in here for the wrong reasons, they weren't properly vetted, they couldn't identify them. The head of the FBI just made that point, James Comey. He said I can't vet you if you don't exist in the database. That's true. There are other ways to vet you other than the database. They changed the program and that's why this takes so long. Years.

FOROOHAR: Years, absolutely, yeah.

CUOMO: So, from an economic perspective, you don't think you can make the case to keep them out. This is really about fear, and you're saying that when you look at the statistics, you don't see quantifiable danger in action on the basis to justify fear.

FOROOHAR: I think that when you see that a small fraction of 1 percent of these refugees have been any kind of a problem and you look at the huge economic impact, not just from them directly but we get more foreign direct investment from countries that are on the Visa waiver program. 


NBC's Chuck Todd Explains How Only A Dozen Of 785,000 Refugees Admitted To The U.S. Since 9/11 Were Removed Because Of Terrorism Concerns

Media Slam Republicans For Vilifying Syrian Refugees Following Paris Terror Attacks

Conservatives Use Paris Attacks To Stoke Fears About Admitting Syrian Refugees Into America