FLASHBACK: Obama Suspended Iraq Refugee Program for Six Months Over Terrorism Fears in 2011
TEL AVIV – Amid the furor over President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily halting refugees while the government can revamp its flawed screening process, it may be instructive to recall that President Obama in 2011 reportedly quietly suspended the Iraq refugee program for six months over terrorism fears.
In 2013, ABC News first revealed that two years earlier, the State Department had imposed a freeze over the processing of Iraqi refugees for six months. The halt was the result of the discovery of two al-Qaida members admitted as refugees from Iraq who were living in Bowling Green, Kentucky and who had admitted to targeting U.S. troops in Iraq.
The network also cited FBI agents conceding that “several dozen suspected terrorist bombmakers, including some believed to have targeted American troops, may have mistakenly been allowed to move to the United States as war refugees.”
ABC News reported on the six month refugee freeze (emphasis added):
As a result of the Kentucky case, the State Department stopped processing Iraq refugees for six months in 2011, federal officials told ABC News – even for many who had heroically helped U.S. forces as interpreters and intelligence assets.
Trump’s executive order halts visas for 90 days for “immigrants and non-immigrants” from Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Iran, and Iraq. The executive order further suspended the entry of all refugees for 120 days, indefinitely blocks Syrian refugees from entering and lowers the ceiling to 50,000 for refugees allowed to enter the U.S. during Fiscal Year 2017.