Inslee says governors' call with White House clears up 'misinformation' about Syrian refugees

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee participated in a conference call Tuesday with other governors and the White House regarding the placement of Syrian refugees in the United States.

Inslee released a statement Tuesday evening, characterizing the call as a chance to hear from Homeland Security and Health and Human Services about the protocols for resettling refugees.

“Setting aside some hateful and divisive comments from certain corners, governors have a legitimate right and need to assure their citizens are safe,” Inslee’s statement read.

“Today’s briefing was a chance for governors to hear directly from those responsible for the processing of refugees and the security of our nation. The federal government reaffirmed that refugees go through the highest level of security screening of any category of traveler to the United States.”

Inslee said the officials on the call described what the screening process entails -- things like background checks and fingerprints that are crosschecked against law enforcement and counterterrorism databases. He said refugees are also required to go through many in-person interviews, as well as a medical screening.

He said Syrian refugees undergo even further scrutinization.

“Federal officials also made it clear that there is a lot of misinformation about the type of people who are fleeing from persecution,” the statement reads. “The U.S. State Department prioritizes the highest-risk and most-vulnerable groups of people – children, the elderly, and victims of torture or abuse. About half of all Syrian refugees are children.

“The federal government feels confident that we have in place robust and thorough security protocols and practices that allow us to provide a safe harbor to those fleeing unfathomable types of brutality and violence while also keeping us safe.”

Earlier in the day, Inslee participated in a conference call with security experts and faith leaders, where he reiterated his welcoming approach to Syrian refugees.  "This is one of the many moments where our national character is tested," Inslee said.  "We should remain true to our fundamental values of being a beacon."

Inslee's approach has draw criticism for some lawmakers who worry about the risks of a 'welcome mat' policy.  "When you are at war with radical Islam," said Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, "there’s definitely an effort to infiltrate this refugee and economic migrant movement to move those terrorists into the United States.”  He hopes to meet with Inslee soon and express his concern.