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Iraqi Refugee in Sacramento Describes Federal Vetting Process

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SACRAMENTO--

In the aftermath of terrorist attacks in Paris, politicians on both the state and federal level, in addition to candidates running for president, have publicly denounced the idea of the U.S. accepting refugees from the Middle East.

Among the biggest concern is the vetting process through which refugees must pass before coming to the U.S.

FOX40 spoke with one refugee who arrived in Sacramento from Iraq in 2011, before ISIS came to power. He did not want to be identified for fear of the security of his family members back in Iraq. He says life removed from his homeland, removed from family and friends, has been difficult.

"Sometimes I remember, and I cry. I and my wife,” the man said.

He says the vetting process to get into the U.S. as a refugee took years, his family went through multiple layers of background checks and various in person interviews.

"I gave [immigration] the information. After two months or three months or four months [officials] told me again, give them the information,” the man said.

"Refugees are the most fully vetted group of immigrants to come to the United States,” said Debra DeBondt, CEO of Open Doors, an organization that resettles refugees in Sacramento. She deals often with those fleeing violence in Iraq and Syria, and says the fear of those refugees is misguided.

"They've really been victims of the fears and the terror that we are afraid of,” said DeBondt.

Thirty state governors in recent days have said they will not accept refugees coming from Syria.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he'll introduce legislation to halt the U.S.'s refugee program, citing security risks.

DeBondt says the moves show a fearfulness, that our leaders don’t fully understand the refugee experience.

"In our past when we've reacted out of fear we've unleashed some of the events that in retrospect we're most ashamed of,” said DeBondt.

The Iraqi refugee says he believes the vast majority of refugees hoping to land in the U.S. or Europe are well intentioned people. He hopes those fleeing the violence he left behind eventually find peace, whether it be in the U.S. or somewhere else.