Our hearts also go out to those refugees fleeing from the violence and terror in Syria. We are a generous nation and have always welcomed those from abroad who are escaping war and oppression. We will continue to be involved in providing assistance to these children, women and men.
However, we are in a very dangerous position as we consider opening our doors to those escaping violence in Syria and Iraq. It didn’t have to be this way. From the beginning, President Obama has not taken the threat of ISIS as serious as a commander-in-chief should. On the morning of the Paris terrorist attacks, the president said ISIS was “contained” – just hours before they carried out one of the most deadly and sophisticated attacks since 9/11. The disconnect is alarming to Congress and to the American people.
Now the Obama administration is charging full speed ahead on a plan to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States with no reliable way to vet whether these individuals are members of ISIS or have ties to other terrorist organizations. This makes me think back to 2009, when a flaw in the screening of Iraqi refugees allowed two al Qaeda-linked terrorists to enter the United States and settle in Bowling Green, Kentucky. In the aftermath of this case the Obama administration halted the refugee program for Iraqis for six months.
It is clear, we need to press the pause button on the Syria refugee process. The most solemn and consequential responsibility of the federal government is to protect the American people. ISIS has publicly threatened to launch terror attacks on American soil, just like the threats they made to France before this attack and to Russia before downing a Russian passenger plane two weeks ago.
Department of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson said, “It is true that we are not going to know a whole lot about the Syrians that come forth in this process.”
FBI Director James Comey stated, “My concern there is that there are certain gaps I don’t want to talk about publicly in the data available to us.”
It would be reckless for the Administration and Congress to not take ISIS threats seriously. We have an obligation to implement a well-thought-out process ensuring – without question – any refugee admitted to the United States has been extensively vetted.
That is why I joined an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 289 members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act. This bill would require the Homeland Security Secretary, FBI Director, and Director of National Intelligence to certify refugees from countries with ISIS strongholds are properly vetted to ensure they are not affiliated with this terrorist organization. This is a commonsense step the federal government is required to take to fulfill its duty to protect Americans.
The refugee crisis is a symptom to the broader problem: the lack of a coherent strategy to combat ISIS. The refugee crisis will persist and the very real threat of terrorist attacks on American soil will loom until these terrorists are defeated.
Last week Congress passed a bipartisan National Defense Authorization Act – the annual bill to set defense policies for the upcoming year. The bill would require the president to finally put together a strategy to end ISIS’ occupation of the Middle East. President Obama has threatened to veto it. It’s time for America to lead. The president needs to sign this bill and put together a strategy to protect America, aid Syrian refugees, and work with our allies to defeat ISIS.
We must all work together to combat this international threat against our way of life. I will work with anyone willing to achieve the goal of peace and respect for all.