New Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kent) are working together on legislation to “pause” the resettlement of Syrian refugees to the U.S., as the White House struggles to save the program from mounting political opposition in the aftermath of the ISIS led terrorist attacks on Paris Friday night.
Speaker Ryan hopes to a bill ready to hit the House floor for a vote as soon as Thursday. Meanwhile, President Obama and members of the administration has begun a massive outreach program to Capitol Hill and held a conference call with governors Tuesday, trying to prevent a suspension of the decades-old program over concerns it might allow terrorist sympathizers to slip into the United States.
“We cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion,” Ryan said Tuesday after meeting with House Republicans. “This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.”We think the prudent and responsible thing is to take a pause in this particular aspect of this refugee program, in order to verify that terrorists are not trying to infiltrate the refugee population,” Ryan concluded in remarks to the media.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure being placed on Speaker Ryan from Republicans in Congress as well as from the GOP candidates running for president to stop the program that expects to resettle at least 10,000 Syrian refugees this fiscal year.
Ryan assembled a task force over the weekend to draft a legislative package. Similar proposals are gaining in the Senate, where some Democrats have aligned with Republicans against the refugee program.
The House Republicans are still working on the exact wording and the scope of the legislation they want have crafted for a vote. What we do know it will cover refugees from both Syria and Iraq, and allow entry only if the FBI director and other officials certified the refugee was not a security threat and had passed a background investigation, according to multiple media reports.
Members of the Obama administration are alarmed by the sudden political backlash to the decades-old refugee program, fanned out to Capitol Hill this week to try to ease mounting concerns.
The administration sent two of their top experts in the area of terrorism, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI Director James Comey to brief member of Congress most of Tuesday, staying late into the night to make sure they answered all the questions they could. Both men are expected to be back on the Hill today to continue their briefings.
Democrats, meanwhile, have largely aligned with President Obama in urging colleagues not to target Syrians, many of whom are fleeing terrorism, they said.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), whose father and grandparents left Germany in the lead-up to World War II, said he was grateful the U.S. viewed his family as “enthusiastic immigrants seeking to escape the dangerous politics.”
The resettlement program, first launched in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, has placed 3 million refugees of various nationalities in the U.S. over the years, and has long enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress.
This year, the State Department intends to increase the number of Syrian refugees from 1,680 to at least 10,000. Refugees are screened overseas and their applications are vetted in the U.S. by Homeland Security, FBI and other officials. Average processing time for all refugees to the U.S. is 18-24 months.
While, the administration is busy briefing Congress things out on the campaign trail are heating up big time. Opposition to the Syrian refugee program has intensified in since Saturday morning when the United States work up to see the Paris attacks that was carried out by ISIS. Since the weekend nearly half the nation’s governors have said they would prevent resettlement in their states.