ATLANTA - A Channel 2 Action News investigation uncovered refugees deported from the United States at a skyrocketing rate for violent crimes. That includes refugees deported from Georgia.
The terrorist attacks in Paris put a big spotlight on refugees around the country. To get into the U.S., each went through a vetting process that took two years. But experts and elected leaders called Investigative Reporter Aaron Diamant's research a game changer.
Diamant dug into a decade's worth of data on a massive federal immigration database. The numbers revealed that from 2003 through 2013, federal authorities deported 1,033 refugees, including 89 from Georgia. In those overall numbers, 713 refugees got kicked out of the United States for committing aggravated felonies, including dozens of assaults, sex crimes, drug crimes and homicides.
Those numbers concern Jessica Vaughn with the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit research organization.
"I do think that the public and policymakers should be concerned about these findings," Vaughn said. "Refugees face more screening that any other immigrant group, but this demonstrates that even in the refugee category, we are not able to screen out all the individuals who pose a threat to our communities."
Diamant looked even deeper into the statistics and found the numbers of refugees deported from the United States has soared from only nine in 2003 to 185 in 2013.
"It may mean that the screening procedures have been relaxed somewhat in recent years," Vaughn speculated.
After French investigators confirmed ISIS operatives involved in the terrorist attacks in Paris slipped in among waves of refugees from Syria, leaders in Georgia and more than 30 other states pushed back and took steps to refuse any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees the U.S. is poised to accept over the next year.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal defended his decision by saying, "We think that it's appropriate for us to take care of our people here in Georgia, and we think this is the appropriate step."
Diamant also looked into where the refugees deported for serious crimes came from. They represented 73 countries. The most, 247, came from Bosnia. Ukraine was next at 77, followed by Haiti, Cambodia and Sudan. Only two came from Syria.
Gainesville Rep. Doug Collins is on the House Judiciary Committee. He's one of many members pushing for a top to bottom review of the federal refugee screening process.
"I think what you're going to see in the House over the next month or longer is dealing with this total issue as a whole, taking into account some of the numbers (Diamant) has brought up," Collins said. "The numbers give us cause to believe there may be something else we could be doing."
Still, Georgia State University counterterrorism and criminology expert Robert Friedmann said there is no solution to root out every potential bad person.
"Anybody who tells you that that can be insured is either deluding themselves or deluding you," Friedmann told Diamant. "I don't think that that's possible."
Vaughn is more optimistic and believes federal authorities will find critical clues to reduce the risk.
"They should be examining each and every one of these cases to find out what went wrong."