NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Migration experts aren't worried about a threat from the 10,000 Syrian refugees expected to come to America next year, and they say the people looking for refuge are fleeing the same terrorists many people fear.
"The people who are fleeing here from Syria are themselves the victims of this very type of terrorism that we're horrified by. They've been tortured, their homes have been bombed, they've been persecuted, they've lived in constant fear," said Susan Weishar, a migration specialist for the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola, said.
Weishar thinks the fears of a terrorist sneaking into the country as a refugee are far overblown, and she cites a vigorous vetting process that can take as long as 24 months before a refugee sets foot in the United States.
"First of all, they have to be recommended by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, then there has to be an in-person intensive interview process with the Department of Homeland Security, and then biometric screening, and then multiple U.S. agencies use their international databases to search the background of the applicant," Weishar explained.
Weishar claims the country will have its pick from millions of refugees and won't be forced to accept anyone who raises concerns.
"There's a very strict protocol in place. We've got a lot of refugees we can choose from, so the ones that might raise concern simply are not going to be selected to come to the United States," Weishar said.
Still, at least 28 governors, including Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, have decried the efforts to welcome Syrian refugees as other politicians use the hot topic as a talking point in their election campaigns.
"That's fear-mongering at its worse, it's demagoguery, it's really a sad failure in leadership," Weishar said.
Republican leaders, though, aren't backing down from their concerns that the federal government is acting too quickly by accepting Syrian refugees.
"The majority leader and our committee chairs are developing a plan to address the Syrian refugee crisis," Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said. "Our nation has always been welcoming, but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion. This is a moment where it's better to be safe than to be sorry. So we think the prudent, the responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population."
Still, Weishar argues that's an affront to the compassion America prides itself on, adding now is the time for the country to live up to its morals or bend to the wants of the terrorists we fear.
"You have to have fears, and then you have to have reasonable fears, and then you have to say, what do we stand for as a country? And isn't this exactly what the terrorists were aiming at, to plant fear and distrust in democratic societies?" Weishar said.
Weishar, who worked to help settle Vietnamese refugees following the fall of Saigon, said the current Syrian refugees, who applied for the status well before the Parisian attacks, will likely be settled in a modest apartment and get help with language classes and job placement.