GOP Refugee Background Check Bill
House Republicans passed the newly drafted bill that will require refugees from Syria and Iraq to undergo “comprehensive background checks” before they can take residence in the United States on Thursday in a 289-137 vote. The bill also mandates that the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the FBI will have to personally sign off on a certification for every single refugee, stating that they pose no “threat to the security of the United States.”
The background check bill, H.R. 4038, the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act” (SAFE Act), was drafted by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) in a panicked response to the terrorist attack that killed over 130 people in Paris occurred. Attacks that were not carried out by refugees, mind you. The intent of the bill is to “create an additional layer of protection by requiring the DHS Inspector General to independently assess the refugee approvals – making sure that high-risk individuals do not slip through the cracks.”
Speaker of the House
Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has only been swinging the gavel as Speaker of the House for three weeks, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to ease into his new job. Quite the contrary as he hit the ground running when addressing the House for the first time since the terrorist attacks as he presented the bill.
Ryan echoed much of the same sentiments that have been slung around by his fellow Republicans both in the House and out, as he said:
“These events in Paris should serve as a reminder: There is still evil out there. We cannot ignore it. We cannot contain it. We must defeat it. And we must protect our people. The county is uneasy and unsettled, and they have every right to be – not because of what they are hearing from politicians, but because of what they are seeing with there own eyes. All of us here, Republicans and Democrats are hearing these concerns in our officers. People understand the plight of those fleeing the middle east, but they also want basic assurances for the safety of this country. We can be compassionate and we can also be safe. That’s what the bill we are bringing up tomorrow is all about. It calls for a new standard of verification for refugees from Syria and Iraq. It would mean a pause in the program until we can be certain without any doubt that those coming here are not a threat. It’s that simple and I don’t think it is asking that much.”
Extensive Screening Process Already in Place
The rash creation of this bill really comes as no surprise after many politicians have made it their mission to halt the process of allowing any and all Syrian refugees into the country, citing concerns over ISIS infiltration. Some are even going as far as suggesting that only refugees who are practicing Christians should be able to use the United States as a safe haven because “there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” It’s “lunacy” to offer the same kindness to Muslim refugees, though, and they should instead be barred from stepping foot on American soil.
There does seems to be a bit of confusion when it comes to the existing screening process, though. A process that is already quite extensive and by no means makes it easy for refugees to enter the country. The current screening system takes roughly 18 to 24 months to complete, for starters. During that time biometric and biographic tests are performed as are multiple interviews and a variety of undisclosed vetting procedures that are conducted by different U.S. security agencies. The process is very rigorous and not many applicants successfully pass.
Those decrying the President’s mission to grant 10,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees access to the country don’t seem to be too concerned with the ability to obtain a visa, though. This is of note because it is actually much easier to obtain a visa, which requires only a background check before the applicant is allowed to enter the country. Some countries have existing policies in place that actually allow their citizens to travel to the states with only a passport in hand, no visa necessary.
The Obama Administration was fast to act upon hearing of the proposed bill and wasted no time making their stance clear in a statement saying, “The Administration’s highest priority is to ensure the safety and security of the American people. That is why refugees of all nationalities, including Syrians and Iraqis, considered for admission to the United States undergo the most rigorous and thorough security screening of anyone admitted into the United States. This legislation would introduce unnecessary and impractical requirements that would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world, many of whom are victims of terrorism, and would undermine our partners in the Middle Easy and Europe in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis. The administration therefore strongly opposes H.R. 4038.”
It’s certainly hard to get your point across in 140 characters or less, unless you’re President Obama, that is. Obama took to Twitter to convey a snippet of his opinion of the American SAFE Act while taking care of business at the G20 Summit In Turkey, tweeting “Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do.”
President Obama has no intentions of signing the House Republican bill, though. He is prepared to exercise his vetoing ability, which he and his cabinet feel will be necessary if the Senate does indeed pass the bill.
The Administration is unwavering in its commitment to provide Syrian’s with a much needed port in a terribly violent storm as is evident in the final sentence in the statement from the administration. It said, “Given the lives at stake and the critical importance to our partners in the Middle East and Europe of American leadership in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, if the President were presented with H.R. 4038, he would veto the bill.”