The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to suspend Obama’s refugee program on Thursday.
The decision was an act of defiance against a veto threat from U.S. president Barack Obama, whose program was to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States within the next year before intensifying the upcoming screening process.
The Republican-backed legislation was drafted soon after the terrorist attacks on Paris by the Islamic State that killed 129 people. It was approved on a vote of 289 to 137 with 47 of Obama’s 188 Democrats breaking with the White House to vote for it.
Paul Ryan, Republican House Speaker, said that the bill would put a pause to the White House program that Obama announced in September to admit 10,000 refugees within the coming year–adding that it is important to act quickly when national security is at stake. The bill mandates that high-level officials, including the FBI director, the director of national intelligence and homeland security secretary–verify that every single individual refugee entering into the United States poses no threat to the country.
However, Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s attorney general, thinks that such in-depth screening of refugees is both impossible and impractical.
“To ask me to have my FBI director or other members of the administration make personal guarantees would effectively grind the program to a halt,” she stated.
Although it’s stated that the chance that a refugee is a terrorist is very small, many Republicans have voiced their concerns about the chance that refugees could be militants aiming to attack the United States; at least one Paris attacker may have slipped in as a refugee in Greece.
The bill passed with the numbers that the House needed to override a presidential veto. The bill, which would ultimately create the strictest American screening of refugees ever, now gets passed to the Senate.
Obama, obviously against the bill, stated that the United States has always been accepting and has been open to people looking to find refuge, adding that refugees already face a strict and vigorous process to be granted entry–and making it harder will simply slow down the process and be counteractive. Obama also stated that “the idea that somehow [refugees] pose a more significant threat than all the tourists who pour into the United States every single day just doesn’t jibe with reality.” Obama tried to veto the bill because it would introduce unnecessary and impractical requirements that would stall efforts to help some of the most vulnerable people in the world.
It’s stated that there’s currently no credible threat against the United States, but dozens of “high risk” people in the States are already being monitored in case anyone tries to copy the Paris attacks.