World Bulletin / News Desk
The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve legislation halting Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. unless they pass stringent background checks.
The 289-137 veto proof vote came with overwhelming Republican support and, 48 Democrats crossed party lines to back the bill.
“If our law enforcement and intelligence community cannot verify that each and every person coming here is not a security threat, then they shouldn't be allowed in,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters before the vote. “Right now, the government can't certify these standards.”
The bill, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015, or American SAFE Act of 2015, will now go to the Senate. If passed by that chamber, it will go to President Barack Obama.
The White House has said that Obama will veto any legislation that seeks to upend his commitment to take in at least 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of next October.
Ryan said that Obama’s veto threat “baffles” him.
Many lawmakers have voiced considerable skepticism of the plan following devastating gun and bomb attacks in Paris last Friday that killed 129 people and injured hundreds of others. That attack came one day after suicide bombings in Beirut killed more than 40 victims.
ISIL claimed responsibility for both attacks.
Critics contend that the administration’s vetting policies fall short given intelligence gaps in Syria, and a lack of an authority to run thorough background checks in the country.
Those divisions were laid bare when Obama administration officials staunchly defended their vetting processes on Thursday before largely skeptical lawmakers.
“The odds of a refugee being a terrorist are very, very small,” Assistant Secretary of State for refugees Anne Richard told the House Judiciary Committee. “That doesn’t stop us from focusing our program to make sure that nobody comes in who might be a terrorist.”
Leon Rodriguez, Obama’s immigration services director also weighed in. “I also ask us to consider the cost of inaction, the fact that being welcoming to refugees contributes to the stability of the region, and puts us side by side with our allies in Europe.”
Testifying alongside the officials, Seth Jones, the director of the RAND corporation’s international security and defense policy center, said that while the U.S. has a “long standing tradition” of providing sanctuary to refugees, “the Syrian battlefield is of some concern because of the U.S. collection gap that exists compared to other battlefields.”
Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Kasım 2015, 22:00