The state House and Senate budget committees plan to take testimony from four state agencies Monday on Syrian refugees coming to Missouri. The Missouri Catholic Conference also plans to testify at that hearing.
Some lawmakers and political candidates are calling for the entrance of Syrian refugees to Missouri to be blocked, at least until the way they are screened is reviewed. They cite concern that terrorists could enter the state with those refugees and carry out attacks like those two weeks ago in Paris.
Catholic charities are among those agencies that help resettle refugees in Missouri, in part with federal money that is appropriated by the state legislature. Mike Hoey with the Conference says making sure that money isn’t blocked is a priority, so refugee assistance can continue.
“A lot of important services are provided to refugees. English language services so they can learn English, job training and placement, and when they first get here, the first 90 days they can get help with food and rent and those kinds of things,” said Hoey. “We think those services are important. They help refugees assimilate into the mainstream society so we think that’s a good thing.”
Hoey says an interruption in that money would not just impact Syrian refugees.
“There’s about three or four main agencies that resettle refugees in Missouri. Central Missouri Catholic Charities settles about 200 refugees a year. They’re Bosnians, Ukrainians, Somalians,” said Hoey.
Hoey says the screening those refugees undergo is very thorough.
“They often go to U.N. refugee settlement camps and then they go through a process with the United Nations, then they come into the United States and they’re placed in resettlement areas like camps and they get further clearance, so it’s a slow process,” said Hoey. “They do everything from identifying name, address, birth, to they do an iris scan – an eye scan on the Syrian refugees so there’s enhanced security on them, and then they have to go through the FBI Homeland Security, a number of different security checks, then they get health screenings.”
The committee has also asked to hear from the state Department of Social Services, Department of Health and Senior Services, the Department of Revenue, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education about what services for refugees they are connected to.
Monday’s hearing begins at 10 and will be streamed live at Missourinet.com.