Screening of Syrian Refugees, Explained

Last week, I wrote a post against calls to ban digital encryption and to deny admitting Syrian refugees in light of the terrorist attacks in Paris. In the same vein, ATTN produced an explainer video detailing the rigorous screening process that would-be refugees must endure before resettling in the United States.

The video, voiced by Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, evokes our collective sympathy to make the argument that admitting refugees to United States is not only safe for but also vital for the survival of thousands of people.

Some of the persusasive strategies include:

  1. It explains that most of the Syrian refugees are women, children, and families, presumably to induce a more sympathetic response than if Syrian refugees were mostly men.
  2. It illustrates the “rigourous screening process” with the metal detectors you see at an airport, except that there are three of them. This suggests that refugee screening process is at least trebly secure than an airport security checkpoint.
  3. It demonstrates the refugee screening process with a woman named Reema and her children, who are seeking refugee status after fleeing Syria.
  4. It visually contrasts Syria and the United States: the former is a site of ruins devasted by bombings, while the US consists of a suburban, single-family home.
  5. It lists the five(!) federal government bureaus that must approve the refugee application.
  6. It shows a timeline of when the United States has admitted refugees. Unacknowledged in the narration, however, is that the US admits refugees in years of international crises and that the number has been steadily declining since the latter-half of twentieth century.
The video explains the screening process through Reema and her children.

The video explains the screening process through Reema and her children.

The presusasive strategies in this video would make an excellent example for students of political communication. It is illustrated with well-designed graphics and compelling narration. However, I should caution against anyone dismissing the video, as propaganda for example, on the basis of employing persuasive strategies listed above. Being presusaive does not make it false or misleading.


Instead, it important that it be persuasive because, as the video concludes, welcoming “men, women, and children who are refugees fleeing violence” is something we can and must do.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.