House Passes Bill Barring Syrian Refugees

After 31 governors said they would not allow Syrian refugees to resettle in their states as a result of security concerns caused by the Paris attacks last week, the House took the issue up in a vote Thursday. The House voted to bar Syrian refugees from entering the U.S., suspending President Barack Obama's plan to admit 10,000 in the next year, according to Politico. The bill passed with 289-137, with unanimous support from Republicans and the votes of almost 50 Democrats, according to The New York Times.

The House bill would institute broad, sweeping screening procedures for refugees from both Syria and Iraq, according to Politico. Before refugees could be admitted under the proposed procedures, their applications would have to be reviewed by the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and the director of national intelligence, according to the Times. The White House has already said that those kinds of requests are virtually impossible to answer and would thus be incredibly difficult to implement, promising a veto from President Obama.

But the bill received two-thirds support in the House, though just barely, so the Senate could override a presidential veto from Obama if it also supported the measure by at least two-thirds. The Senate will take the measure up after its Thanksgiving recess, according to the Times. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, said that he wouldn't allow the bill to make it to Obama's desk. He said he might try to tack it on to a government spending bill that Congress will address in November, according to Politico.


New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, one of the Democrats who supported the bill, said he felt like the Obama administration didn't do enough to prove that the U.S.' existing process for vetting refugees provided the country with enough security, according to Politico:

I think a lot of us went in with open minds and really wanted to understand the administration’s position on this. It is offensive to me that we would stigmatize refugees…but if you read the bill what you find it that you have a pretty simple certification process sitting on top of an existing and extensive screening process that most of us believes works pretty well.

The White House released a statement promising to veto the legislation, which is said "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 East and Europe in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis," according to the Boston Globe.


Fear about Syrian refugees posing threats to security skyrocketed after French authorities discovered a Syrian passport near the body of a suicide bomber who blew himself up outside of the Stade de France in last week's attacks in Paris. Authorities have since discovered that the passport belonged to a months-dead Syrian soldier, so they concluded that the passport was either fake or stolen and was brought to the attack as a ploy, according to the Times. ISIS wants the West and Europe to reject Syrian refugees, so that it has fuel for its narrative that the West and Islam are at war. Further, Syrians and Iraqis fleeing their home countries undermines ISIS' legitimacy, according to the Washington Post.

Currently, the refugee screening process takes 18 to 24 months, and is one of the most best screening processes in the world, according to BuzzFeed. It includes a number of high-level security checks, which include counter-terrorism efforts, biometric screening, interviews with the Department of Homeland Security, medical screenings, and cultural orientation programs, according to BuzzFeed.


Many representatives who voted against the bill cited the U.S.' already robust screening process and the fact that rejecting refugees would be the result of fear-driven decision making. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, also pointed out that refugees are fleeing the same people that 31 U.S. governors are afraid of, according to the Boston Globe:

Defeating terrorism should not mean slamming the door in the faces of those fleeing the terrorists. We might as well take down the Statue of Liberty.