From U.S. Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA-9), editorial comment below:
the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Constituents have contacted my offices to express their concerns, share their views on how to defeat ISIS, and on the President’s proposed plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States next year.
I understand and share many of their concerns – ISIS is a serious threat.
According to reports, prior to the Paris attacks, one of the ISIS assailants posed as a refugee in order to enter Europe through Greece. Consequently, many are questioning whether the United States could be similarly infiltrated.
Adding to these fears is the fact that top national security officials within the Obama Administration have warned repeatedly that there is not sufficient data or resources to significantly vet the vast majority of refugees from Syria.
A duty of our government must be to protect the safety of the American people. That’s why my colleagues and I in the House of Representatives on November 19 passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act (H.R. 4038).
The SAFE Act would immediately suspend the Syrian refugee resettlement program, prohibiting the admission of refugees from Iraq and Syria into the U.S. until the FBI Director certifies the background of each refugee, and until the FBI Director, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence certify to the American people’s representatives in Congress that each refugee is not a security threat to the United States.
Despite serious concerns regarding national security, this vote was not taken lightly. Many with Middle Eastern backgrounds or descent work, play, and contribute to our communities, and are truly great Americans.
Notably, despite the President’s veto threat, the SAFE Act passed the House with a veto-proof majority. The Hill reports that “A number of Democrats who were on the fence about the bill decided to vote yes after hearing administration officials make the case against it.”
“It didn’t persuade,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), who supported the bill. “It had the opposite effect – for a number of us.”
More can and must be done in an effort to keep us safe. The SAFE Act is a targeted, significant first step we are taking in an area in which there is an immediate need for action.
FBI Director James Comey said on October 8 that “My concern [about bringing Syrian refugees into the United States] is that there are certain gaps I don’t want to talk about publicly in the data available to us.”
Comey also testified in an October 21 House Homeland Security Committee hearing, “…if someone has not made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interests reflected in our databases, we can query our databases until the cows come home but nothing will show up because we have no record of that person…You can only query what you have collected.”
The Administration insists the current background check system is sufficient. As an analogy, I recall, however, that 11 days before the launch of Obamacare exchanges, an administration official testified that the exchanges were on track for an October 1, 2013 launch. Whether supportive of or opposed to Obamacare, no rational person argues the Obamacare computer system was ready on time.
Of course, the ramifications of the botched launch of Obamacare would pale in comparison to what could happen should the current background check system fail.
No system is perfect, but we must pause the Syrian refugee program until the reasonable questions being asked by Congress and the people of these United States can be answered.
General Jack Keane, a retired U.S. Army general, said, “I’m absolutely convinced that you’re doing the right thing by pausing and making certain that the Congress takes a look at the executive branch’s plans and makes certain that it’s reasonable what we’re doing in terms of the vetting process.”
Our nation has a long history of providing for many of the world's refugees. We remain a compassionate nation, and I acknowledge the plight of those fleeing from war-torn areas of the Middle East and know that we must find a way to help them. But I also acknowledge my first responsibility is to the people I represent.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Editorial comment: And as Thanksgiving approaches, let us all give thanks that Hitler didn't think of sending bogus Jewish spies around the world...it looks from here as if a whole new depth of human evil has been plumbed.