Watch John Oliver Slam Anti-Refugee Rhetoric By Explaining The Thoroughness Of The Refugee Vetting Process

Oliver: “For The Tremendous Good We Could Do, And The Low Level Of Risk Involved, Refugees Are Worth It”

From the November 22 edition of HBO's Last Week Tonight:

Video file

JOHN OLIVER (HOST): Look, it is difficult to vet people coming out of a war zone, but it's not like we're letting just anyone in. We are the United States of America, not Arizona State. Because just for the record here, let me just walk you through what our screening process actually is. If you're a refugee, first, you apply through the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees, which collects documents and performs interviews. Incidentally, less than one percent of refugees worldwide end up being recommended for resettlement. But if you're one of them, you may then be referred to the State Department to begin the vetting process. At this point, more information is collected, you'll be put through security screenings by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security. And if you're a Syrian refugee, you'll get an additional layer of screening called the “Syria enhanced review,” which may include a further check by a special part of Homeland Security, the USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security Directorates. And don't relax yet, because we've barely even started. Then, you finally get an interview with USCIS officers, and you'll also be fingerprinted so your prints can be run through the biometric databases of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense. And if you make it through all that, you'll then have health screenings which, let's face it, may not go too well for you, because you may have given yourself a stroke getting through this process so far. But if everything comes back clear, you'll be enrolled in cultural orientation classes, all while your information continues to be checked recurrently against terrorist databases to make sure that no new information comes in that wasn't caught before. All of that has to happen before you get near a plane. This process typically takes 18 to 24 months once you've been referred by the U.N. to the United States. This is the most rigorous vetting anyone has to face before entering this country. No terrorist in their right mind would choose this path when the visa process requires far less efforts. But nevertheless, the House still voted on Thursday to add a few more steps.


OLIVER: He signs off -- that is ridiculous! At this point, why don't we just include a pie-eating contest, a spelling bee, and an evening-wear portion? But the really hard truth here is, no one can promise that someone dangerous still might not slip through. And while that risk should not be denied, it also should not be wildly inflated.


OLIVER: [A]s reasonable adults, we accept tiny amounts of risk baked into our everyday lives. We drive cars, despite knowing around 32,000 of us die in them each year. We go swimming despite the fact 10 people a day die from drowning. Twenty Americans every year are killed by cows, but no one's saying we should expel all cows from the country. We're happy just taking them out one at a time, thinking, “well, we got them before they got us. This is what freedom tastes like.” Any rational person knows you cannot completely eliminate risk. You can only manage it. And we do it with peanuts and cars and swimming and hamburgers and men named Mike because we rightly think that they're worth the risk. And I would argue -- for the tremendous good we could do, and the low level of risk involved, refugees are worth it, too. 


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

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

Media Slam Republicans For Vilifying Syrian Refugees Following Paris Terror Attacks