New fuel has been added to the dispute over allowing refugees fleeing from wars in the Middle East to settle in the U.S. after two were arrested -- one in Texas, one in California -- for allegedly helping Islamic militants.
Omar Al Hardan was escorted into a Houston courtroom Friday to face charges he attempted to provide material support to ISIS. The 24-year-old Iraqi refugee has been in the U.S. since 2009.
In Sacramento, agents arrested another Iraqi refugee, Aws Al-Jayab. Court papers say he had traveled to Syria to fight with rebels opposing President Bashar Assad.
The 23-year-old came to the U.S in 2012 but investigators allege soon after, he was communicating via social media with terrorist organizations in Syria. In March and April of 2013, he messaged: "I am coming to Syria..." and "...I am eager to see blood."
In November of 2013, Al-Jayab flew from Chicago to Turkey, and then traveled to Aleppo in Syria. That's where investigators say he "took up arms with terrorist organizations and concealed that conduct from immigration authorities" when he returned to the U.S. the next year.
Investigators call Al-Jayab a "foreign fighter." According to U.S. intelligence officials, more than 36,500 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria, with 250 coming from the U.S.
The two arrests have reignited the political debate over admitting refugees from the region into the U.S.
"They're ticking time bombs," House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul said. "And how many ticking time bombs are we going to bring in in this refugee program without a proper vetting system in place?"
The White House Friday described the current screening process as "rigorous."
Lawyers for the two suspects could not be reached for comment.
According to court papers, the two communicated through social media and discussed going to Syria to fight.