Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), announced what he calls a four-point plan to accelerate the processing of refugee applications. The said his plan would push the process from the current average of two years to just months. Speaking at a news conference, Blumenthal said, “If their family members are here and here legally then they should be able to apply directly to this country without going through the United Nations.” Currently, the Department of State coordinates with the UN High Commission on Refugees to vet potential refugees for admission to the United States.
 
The four points include:
 
*Expanding the Priority 3 program, which permits refugees with relatives already in the US to apply to the federal government for vetting and and resettlement.
 
*Improved coordination to avoid repeated security checks that expire while refugee processing.
 
*Replacing personal interviews with videoconferencing for security screenings.
 
*Notification of families when some, but not all family members are cleared for entry to the US.
 
Blumenthal’s plan seeks to improve government coordination in order to avoid duplicate security checks. Screenings are currently valid for a limited span of time and sometimes expire before processing is completed. He wants to utilize videoconferencing for the interviews used in the screenings instead of in-person interviews. Blumenthal also that his plan would allow families to send on some members to the US even if other members have not been fully screened. “Allow those families to come here begin to get housing and jobs and settle here and avoid the dangers they may encounter where they are now,” Blumenthal said.
 
Standing behind Blumenthal at the news conference was Mongi Dhaouadi, who serves as executive director of the local arm of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Tunisian-born Dhaouadi came to the US at the age of 19 and studied electrical engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. On behalf of CAIR, he conducts discussions and workshops on Islam. Dhaouadi has also led several media campaigns on issues ranging from anti-Muslim discrimination, Islamophobia, and racial profiling. He has been featured, according to the CAIR website, on various media including Fox News and the leftist Democracy Now network.
 
Blumenthal -- who sits on the Senate Judiciary committee -- has come under withering criticism from Republicans and President Trump over the senator's remarks that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch can expect very close examination during the hearings on his nomination. It was revealed several years ago that Blumenthal had falsely claimed that he had experienced combat as a Marine during the Vietnam War. In a tweet, Trump called Blumenthal out on the false claim of combat experience. Trump tweeted "Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?" Trump was referencing claims in the media that Gorsuch told Blumenthal in a private conversation that he was "disheartened" and dismayed over earlier remarks Trump made about a judge.
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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