The House overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday imposing new rules on the intake of refugees from Syria and Iraq, but it ignores key concerns about President Barack Obama’s refugee plan.
The bill will require the directors of the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and national intelligence to confirm to Congress that each applicant admitted from Syria and Iraq poses no threat to the United States. The bill passed 289-137 with the support of 47 Democrats.
Obama promises to veto the bill should it make it to his desk, saying the demands are “untenable,” will not strengthen the vetting process and will only waste resources. Scores of Republicans also object to the bill in its current form, saying it ignores key problems. Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said in a statement the bill “fails to defend the interests of the American people.”
Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan blocked all amendments to the bill, including a popular amendment from Republican Rep. Brian Babin to definitively pause the entire resettlement program until vulnerabilities in the vetting process are addressed. (RELATED: Five Of The Paris Attackers Could Have Flown To U.S. Without Restrictions)
Here are some of the key concerns not addressed in the bill:
It’s clearly not possible for the Obama administration to guarantee every refugee from Syria and Iraq is not a threat and officials have testified to this fact under oath. Federal officials don’t have access to a government database in Syria and generally cannot verify individual’s identities on the ground.
Applicants are flagged only if they’re already in the U.S. system, but that system is limited by the lack of a ground presence in Syria and Iraq. And U.S. officials can hardly be expected to predict who may already be or will become radicalized. An administration official was blunt in a recent hearing: “We can’t predict the future.” (RELATED: FBI Director: It’s ‘Impossible’ To Vet Every Single Syrian Refugee)
The legislation ignores the fact that refugees, immigrants and naturalized citizens from countries other than Syria and Iraq have been arrested in the U.S. on terror related charges. People originating from Cuba, Somalia, Ghana, Pakistan and other countries have been arrested in recent years for plotting to help terror groups including Islamic State. (RELATED: Many U.S. ‘Citizen Terrorists’ Are Also Legal Immigrants)
The bill also does not put a numerical limit on the number of refugees the Obama administration can admit from Iraq, Syria, or any other country. Recent polls find most Americans want the Syrian refugee resettlement plan halted immediately and strongly support the idea of not accepting any refugees for the time being.
The Obama administration plans to accept an extra 45,000 refugees in the next two years, including a minimum of 10,000 Syrian refugees, which will result in a total of 200,000 refugees.
Obama’s plan will require additional funding, which the House bill does nothing to address. Resettling the additional refugees will cost billions of dollars in welfare, education and entitlement costs. A recent analysis of government data found more than 90 percent of Middle Eastern refugees are on food stamps and more than 70 percent receive free healthcare.
The Center for Immigration Studies estimates the cost of resettling one refugee in the U.S. for five years is about $64,000 — the same as the cost of resettling 12 refugees in the Middle East. And the money it will cost to resettle about 39,000 Syrian refugees in the United States is enough to erase a $2.5 billion funding gap the U.N. Human Rights Commission says it needs to care for about four million Syrian refugees in the Middle East.
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