COLUMBUS (TDB) -- The Bush Administration's plan to resettle Iraqi War refugees in the U.S. ran into a snub from Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who said the state has helped that nation enough. News reports say up to 7,000 Iraqis may soon be offered shelter in America, but the official transcript of a State Department briefing appears to challenge those press accounts.
The transcript is HERE , and Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbery indicated 7,000 may be processed as refugees, but not nearly that many could be moved. "The process of processing is a time consuming one because not only do we have a very intense security screening that is in place, but following security screening, there is another health screening. So it does take a matter of months normally, once we have begun the interview process, before someone is travel-ready. So I think it is fair to say that under the best of circumstances, it will be, perhaps, half of the number we actually are addressing in the fiscal year that we'll be ready -- travel ready before the end of September."
The key word there -- half.
Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. Strickland doesn't want anything to do with the resettlement program. "I think Ohio and Ohioans have contributed a lot to Iraq in terms of blood, sweat and too many tears. I am sympathetic to the plight of the innocent Iraqi people who have fled that country. However, I would not want to ask Ohioans to accept a greater human burden that they already have borne for the Bush administration's failed policies."
His statement was carried by The Associated Press.
It looks doubtful that the Bush administration can move large numbers of refugees, not because they would be unwelcome, but because the background checks would be a near-impossible hurdle. Homeland Security officials would have to weed out potential terrorists who might try to slip through the cracks. Worse -- and impossible to guard against -- would be someone who once supported the U.S. and who switched to the other side because of religious, family or tribal ties. Or, they might be subject to pressure or blackmailed by groups still in Iraq, or who kidnaped and threatened to kill relatives.
Right now, federal and immigration courts are stuffed with cases by resident aliens from all over the world who cannot get their U.S. paperwork processed because of security delays over background checks. And U.S. citizens themselves must carry passports to re-enter their own nation upon travelling overseas. The Bush resettlement proposal -- while it sounds admirable -- probably is a pipedream because of the risk a terrorist could slip through.