Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Thursday the FBI is stretched thin and it’s nearly impossible to screen all Syrian refugees, but that doesn’t mean the city shouldn’t accept them.
Bratton said the responsibility of vetting the refugees falls squarely with the federal government.
“Vetting is actually very difficult,” said Bratton, speaking at a Manhattan Institute forum. “This is an unresolved situation. Could people be screened adequately to come in? Certainly. But the amount of effort’s going to be extraordinary. And the FBI as an organization is currently already stretched to the limit.”
Bratton said there is always a “potential risk” of someone becoming radicalized, no matter where they are coming from. But the city is one with rich immigrant history, and should embrace that now.
“There is no, what Congress is demanding … absolute guarantee. Life doesn’t work that way,” Bratton said, adding: “We are a city of immigrants — 25% of our population, 2 million [people] were born elsewhere. A very significant number of children in this city were born to those immigrant parents. We’re an immigrant country. We’re going to have to continue allow immigrants from all over the world coming in.”
Bratton, however, said some tough decisions will have to made on who is allowed to enter the country since documentation for the refugees is often so difficult to validate.
A representative for the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
For his part, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he would embrace refugees in the city.
“I am satisfied that we are ready to support victims of one of the worst humanitarian crises of our generation,” de Blasio said on Wednesday evening during an address in Times Square. “That is the right thing to do morally; that it is consistent with New York City’s values; and that it can be done safely, but it will take time and it will be a very, very deliberative process.”
(With Emily Ngo)