Refugee Information

In addition to the Q&A below, here are some helpful links that provide further information about America's refugee process:


  • Do you support allowing Syrian refugees into America?

Yes.  There is no greater duty for a public official than to provide for the security of our country, and we will never waver from our commitment to safeguarding the American public from terrorists.  As we do this, I believe we can also provide refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable people and I support continuing our country’s role in accepting Syrian refugees. 

Millions of Syrians are fleeing their country in a desperate and dangerous attempt to escape a ruthless dictator, war, terrorism, torture, genocide, and persecution.  Upon making the difficult decision to flee with their families, Syrian refugees have been willing to risk an expensive, uncertain and often fatal journey because these dangers are still preferable to what they face if they stay behind.  They are in desperate need of aid and safe haven.  We can provide refuge without sacrificing our commitment to our national security. 


  • What would the legislation voted on in the House last week have actually done?  And, why did you vote against it?

The legislation considered in the House of Representatives last week would have essentially halted the resettlement of Iraqi and Syrian refugees in the United States.  The additional certification requirements at the core of H.R. 4038 would provide no meaningful additional security for the American people, instead serving only to create significant delays and obstacles to the fulfillment of a vital program that satisfies both humanitarian and national security objectives.  I did not support this hastily and poorly crafted bill because it would not make us safer and did not honor our nation’s fundamental values. 


  • Do you have confidence in the review process for refugees?  Many refugees have no official documentation, how can we guarantee that we aren’t allowing in terrorists?  Wouldn’t taking a pause give us time to review/improve the process for admitting Syrian refugees?

Of the numerous ways an individual can enter the United States from abroad, entering the country as a refugee is probably the most difficult and least certain. Applicants for refugee status are subjected to the most rigorous security screenings and background checks of any individual attempting to enter the United States.

Applicants must initially apply for refugee status through the United Nations. If the UN approves the individual’s refugee status, the UN will then refer the refugee to a country for resettlement – there is no guarantee that a refugee will be referred for placement in the United States.  No refugee is approved for travel to the United States under the current system until the full array of required security vetting measures have been completed.  

If the refugee is referred to the United States, the process can take upwards of two years and includes numerous rounds of interviews, background checks by American and international agencies, stringent identification checks that produce information shared between national security agencies and more. For those wishing to enter from Iraq and Syria, the process includes additional layers of security checks.

Many people travel here from Europe and other democratic countries as part of our Visa Waiver Program without being subject to prior investigation including finger prints or in-person interviews.  That is why we must have a robust and thorough process for admitting anyone to the U.S. and cannot limit our efforts or attention to just one group or method of entry. We need to ensure the agencies in charge of this process have the support, resources and funding they need for full implementation.


  • Are there currently any Syrian refugees in Massachusetts?

Since 2011, more than 23,000 Syrian refugees have been referred to the United States for resettlement by the United Nations after the UN’s initial screening phase, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security chose to interview only about 7,000. Of that, approximately 2,200 Syrian refugees have been admitted to America since 2011.  The White House has put an emphasis on prioritizing the admittance of the most vulnerable refugees, such as women and children, those over 60, and those with severe medical conditions.

This year, the approximately 2,200 refugees who have arrived here from Syria have been placed in 48 states and the District of Columbia. According to information compiled by the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants and published by multiple news sources, there are approximately 100 Syrian refugees currently living in Massachusetts.


  • What should we be doing to address ISIS?

No change in refugee policy or amount of humanitarian aid can resolve the political crisis that is displacing so many innocent people. To bring an end to this crisis, the U.S. must work with the international community to reach a political solution to defeat ISIS.

By the President’s own admission, efforts to achieve this goal will spill into future administrations.  Republicans and Democrats alike have raised serious questions about the administration's strategy particularly regarding the cost, the commitment of American servicemembers, the timetable, the nature of the support we have from regional partners who must take more direct responsibility, the exit strategy and how we will define success.

Ultimately, the U.S. cannot do this alone and the President has established a coalition of more than 65 nations determined to defeat ISIS.  How we work with the regional players to re-establish the security and stability of the regionrequires a robust national discussion, and Congress must have an opportunity to fully discuss and debate the administration's overarching strategy.