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Iraqi refugee charged with attempted murder of Colorado police officer

August 6, 2018

A man who entered the U.S. as a refugee from Iraq during the Obama administration now stands accused of attempting to kill a Colorado police officer.

Karrar Noaman al Khammasi’s arrest in Colorado Springs last week raises questions about the vetting of those admitted under the refugee program questions that dogged the Obama administration, which insisted refugees were the most vetted of any migrants to the U.S.

The Colorado case could also bolster the Trump administration’s argument for further constraints on the refugee program, with a decision due next month on the level of refugees the U.S. will accept in 2019.

Mr. Khammasi was admitted to the U.S. in 2012 as a refugee from Iraq, and has amassed a lengthy criminal record in the years since, according to a Homeland Security official.

Last week, he was arrested after police say he engaged in a gun battle with officers. He’d previously had arrests for drunken driving, trespassing, assault, extortion and illegally possessing a firearm, according to local news reports and government officials.

The Colorado Springs Gazette said he had been placed on an immigration hold at some point during the Obama administration. The paper wondered why he hadn’t been deported “despite a string of crimes.”

The refugee program, which grants political protections in the U.S. to people persecuted overseas, has been a source of contention in recent years.

Then-President Barack Obama pursued a massive expansion of the program and insisted the program was safe.

Yet several Iraqi refugees were arrested on terrorism-related charges in 2016. One, who arrived in 2009, pleaded guilty to plotting attacks on Houston shopping malls, while another who like Mr. Khammasi arrived in 2012, is awaiting trial on charges of assisting terrorists in Syria.

President Trump took office on a promise of reeling in the refugee program, saying he didn’t think the government was able to weed out dangerous applicants from places such as Iraq and Syria, where vetting backgrounds can be difficult.

In addition to his travel ban, which tried to impose a temporary halt on refugees, Mr. Trump has also severely restricted the total number admitted.

He cut Mr. Obama’s cap from 110,000 in 2017 to 45,000 this year, and is reportedly eyeing a level of just 15,000 refugees next year.

The administration, though, says the government’s humanitarian commitment remains high, with the number of people seeking asylum from within the U.S. soaring, balancing out a drop in refugees accepted from outside the country.

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