Anti-Ossoff attack ad repackages right-wing media myths on Syrian refugees

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

An attack ad against Georgia Democratic House candidate Jon Ossoff repackaged right-wing media myths about Syrian refugees, falsely claiming that the United States does not have a sufficient screening process for refugees and is allowing ISIS to infiltrate the country through the refugee program. In reality, the United States’ screening process for refugees is one of the most robust in the world, and no Syrian refugee has ever been involved in a terror attack in the U.S.

The May 31 attack ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) claimed that members of ISIS are “infiltrating America and using Syrians to do it.” It also cited right-wing website The Daily Caller to claim that the United States doesn’t have proper screening measures in place. This false information is some of the same rhetoric spewed by right-wing media when it comes to Syrian refugees.

Right-wing media have consistently opposed U.S. entry for refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Often they claim that the refugees have “no paperwork” and therefore cannot be properly screened to ensure that they would not commit terrorist attacks in the country. 

Experts agree that the U.S. refugee screening process is “one of the most robust” in the world, requiring multiple security checks, in-person interviews, approval from Department of Homeland Security, and a medical screening. On average, it takes two years for a Syrian refugee to make it through. When, in 2016, then-Gov. Mike Pence attempted to bar refugees from coming into Indiana, a federal judge blocked him. The decision was unanimously upheld by a panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that said it was “nightmare speculation” without any evidence on Pence’s part that terrorists will pose as refugees to enter the country. Judge Richard Posner, who was part of the panel, reaffirmed that refugees are “required to undergo multiple layers of screening by the federal government.”

The claim that ISIS will infiltrate the U.S. by posing as Syrian refugees used in the attack ad against Ossoff has also been rated false by PolitiFact Georgia. PolitiFact ruled that “in the few examples since 2001 of an ‘infiltration’ leading to a terror attack, they have not involved ISIS terrorists from Syria.” It also noted that “far more common than ‘infiltration’ cases are examples of self-radicalization by people already in the United States, mostly people who were born and raised here.”