The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday, Nov. 19, to impose tougher screening measures on incoming Syrian and Iraqi refugees. The vote was 289 – 137.
The measure, H.R. 4038, the America Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act. Passage of the measure would ensure additional delays before any former residents of either Syria or Iraq could be admitted into the United States.
The measure, if passed by both Houses, requires the FBI director, to certify a background investigation for each refugee that each refugee is not a security threat to the U.S. The Director of National Intelligence and the Director of Homeland Security must also concur in that assessment before a refugee from Iraq or Syria can be admitted.
The additional requirements apply to everyone seeking admission to the U.S. who is a national or resident of Iraq or Syria, or has no nationality and whose last residence was in Iraq or Syria, or who has been present in Iraq or Syria at any time on or after March 1, 2011.
Forty-seven Democrats joined in approving the measure. If they all remain supportive of the measure it will mean a promised veto by President Barack Obama will be overridden.
The SAFE Act was sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC).
In a statement released yesterday, when the measure was introduced, both McCaul and Hudson stated that America is a compassionate nation with a proud tradition of welcoming refugees, but that “our top responsibility is to protect the American people.”
McCaul said he wrote to President Obama earlier this week, asking the president to temporarily suspend the refugee admissions until there was a full review of the resettlement program. But, he said: “It is apparent that the President will ignore these concerns, making this legislation necessary to toughen security measures in order to keep terrorists from infiltrating America disguised as refugees. We cannot afford to play Russian roulette with our national security.”
“I was glad to work with Chairman McCaul on this reasonable approach to stop the open flow of 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States without adequate vetting,” said Congressman Hudson.
“Our top responsibility is to protect the American people and this common sense approach is one step necessary to do just that.” continued Hudson. “America is a compassionate nation. No country on Earth does more or spends more to care for our fellow man. But being compassionate doesn’t mean we have to have reckless policies that put American lives at risk.”
Among those voting in favor of the measure were the following Democrats: Rep. John Garamendi (CA-03), Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26), Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA-31), Rep. Janice Hahn (CA-44), Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02), Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Rep. William Keating (MA-09), Rep. Brad Ashford (NE-02), Rep. Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Rep. Steve Israel (NY-03), Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY-04), Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Rep.Jim Langevin (RI-02), Rep. Filemon Vela (TX-34), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-35) and Rep. Gerald Connolly (VA-11).
The measure now goes to the Senate for a vote.