Reality Check: Stewart Mills Ad On Syrian Refugees

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A tough new television ad from Republican Congressional candidate Stewart Mills accuses Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan of being weak on terrorism.

The ad says Nolan wants to allow Syrian refugees into the United States without checking to see if they have terrorist backgrounds.

Here’s what the ad says:

“ISIS infiltrating Syrian refugees. Minnesota leads the nation in the number of recruits for ISIS. ISIS wants to infiltrate America, and they are using Syrians to do it.

But Rick Nolan supports bringing 100,000 unvetted Syrians to America by the end of the year. He voted for Hillary Clinton’s Iran nuclear deal that gave over $100 billion to the leading sponsor of terrorism.

Rick Nolan is weak, and dangerous.”

The ad claims ISIS is infiltrating Syrian refugees, which is true, and that Minnesota leads the nation in the number of ISIS recruits, which is also true.

But Mills takes it one step further, saying Rick Nolan wants “100,000 unvetted Syrians to America by the end of the year.”

That’s False. Nolan does favor allowing 100,000 Syrian refugees into the country, but he supports extensive background checks before they enter. In fact, in the newspaper article cited by the ad, Nolan says it:

“We have to make sure that terrorists do not come into this country under the guise of refugees,” Nolan told the Brainerd Daily Dispatch, and the US has to “make sure we have a good vetting process in place.”

The Mills campaign cites as evidence a House Homeland Security Committee letter to the White House raising serious questions about the vetting of Syrian refugees.

But those refugees are not “unvetted”. Entering the U.S. as a refugee involves a two-year process with in-person interviews. Applicants must provide extensive biographical and biometric details, including fingerprints, and Syrians are subjected to additional, classified investigations.

Despite what the Obama administration calls “extreme vetting,” it is not foolproof. It’s difficult for the United States to check all of the detailed records in war-torn countries like Syria, including bank records, or local arrests. But that’s different from the false claim that Congressman Nolan is welcoming “unvetted” refugees.

By the numbers in 2016 so far, 3,500 Syrian refugees entered the U.S., about half of them children. Minnesota accepted six Syrian refugees in 2016, bringing the total number of Syrian refugees to 28 since 2003.

Meanwhile, Nolan Campaign Chairman Joe Radinovich issued the following statement:

“Just as Mills has tried to mislead voters about his own so-called blue collar upbringing, Mills is trying now to mislead voters on Congressman Nolan’s record. Stewart Mills III has decided to drag this race into the gutter right out of the gate with negative misleading ads paid for with over $1 million of his own inherited wealth. It’s disappointing that someone running for Congress would mislead 8th district voters by perpetuating lies about Congressman Nolan’s record of working across the aisle to strengthen America’s security.”

Mills Campaign Manager John Eloranta says the campaign stands behind the ad. He issued the following statement:

“FBI Director Comey and other members of the FBI — in congressional testimony under oath — are publicly saying procedures are not in place to properly vet them before they’d come into the country. There is a standard that must be observed to keep us safe, and senior members of the executive branch, past and present, have said that standard can not be met. One of the most prominent among them being former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge. So it’s not a stretch of anyone’s imagination or spin to accurately say that refugees would come into our country unvetted. No one will dispute that.”

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

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