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Reality Check: Syrian Refugees And Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota lawmakers are increasingly divided on how many -- if any -- Syrian refugees to accept in the state.

That is after two terrorists in Paris reportedly had fake Syrian passports, and Minnesota Democrats broke with President Obama to support a bill ramping up security checks.

More than four million Syrian refugees have fled their country since 2011 to escape violence and death.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees interviews and screens the Syrians who flee, and forwards them for resettlement to other countries.

Only a tiny fraction of them -- 23,092 -- got referred to America.

Of that number, Homeland Security interviewed 7,014.

And the United States accepted 2,174 since 2011.

After the terrorist attacks in Paris, the France president said his country will take in 30,000 more Syrian refugees.

That is compared to the U.S., which has agreed to take 10,000.

But the House of Representatives this week passed a bill that could make it tougher, ramping up security checks for refugees from Syria and Iraq.

The American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act requires personal signoffs on every refugee from both the directors of the FBI and National Intelligence and the Secretary of Homeland Security.

The Minnesota Office of Resettlement Programs says that between October of 2014 and July of 2015, the state accepted 847 refugees from Somalia and 661 refugees from Burma.

Only seven were accepted from Syria, all of them from one family.

In the rest of the world, Syrian refugees are spreading across Europe and the Middle East. Lebanon has taken 1.2 million, Turkey has taken 2 million and even Sweden is taking Syrians: 190,000 this year.

Here is a Syrian refugee summary since 2011:

  • Displaced: 4,300,000
  • Referred by U.N. to U.S. for review: 23,092
  • Homeland Security interviewed: 7,014
  • Refugees allowed into U.S.: 2,174
  • Refugees to Minnesota in 2015: 7 (all in 1 family)
  • Syrian refugees to Minn. since 1979: 9

The background interviews and security checks for refugees are done by the U.N. and the U.S. outside the country.

Beginning to end, it takes about two years for a refugee to be admitted to the U.S.

Here are some of the sources that we used for this Reality Check:

U.S. Government Refugee Program "Vetting" Process

State Department: Syrian Refugees

Refugees Resettled in Minnesota, Oct. 2014 - Jul. 2015

Minn. Dept. of Human Services Resettlement Programs Office

American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act

United Nations High Commission on Refugees/Syria

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