Politics

Syrian And Iraqi Refugee Program May Be Suspended Due To Recent Terrorist Attacks

| by Kathryn Schroeder
Syrian RefugeesSyrian Refugees

The Senate will meet on Jan. 20 to discuss whether the United States' Syrian and Iraqi refugee program should be suspended until new screening procedures are put in place.

On Jan. 12, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said legislators will consider the American SAFE Act -- which passed the House of Representatives in November 2015 -- to suspend the program amidst recent terrorist attacks, CNN reports.

Since November, there have been numerous ISIS-led terrorist attacks in the U.S. and abroad, including the San Bernardino mass shooting. During the week of Jan. 4, two Iraqi refugees were arrested on terrorism charges in separate cases in California and Texas.

Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California released a statement following the Iraqi refugee arrests, urging a vote on the American SAFE Act to suspend the refugee program until the its proposals are functioning, the Associated Press reported.

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Under the legislation, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence would all have to certify that the refugee is not a threat and can be admitted to the U.S. by performing background checks and other measures, CNN notes. The bill applies to refugees who are either from Syria or Iraq, or have visited those countries in the last five years.

"This is an issue of safety to the American people," Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas said following the Iraqi arrests, according to AP. “[If the latest arrests are not enough evidence as to why we need this legislation passed] I don't know what more is necessary.”

The meeting of the Senate is scheduled for Jan. 20. A total of 60 votes are needed to advance the bill and, according to leadership aides in both parties, the outcome is uncertain, CNN reports.

The White House criticized the measure in November, even though 47 House Democrats supported it.

"We face complex and growing threats from Islamic extremism and we must remain vigilant," Republican Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, a sponsor of the bill, said in a statement, according to CNN. "This bill is a critical step to avoid another deadly catastrophe here at home."

Sources: CNN, AP via U.S. News & World Report / Photo Source: Domnic Santiago/Flickr, Gage Skidmore/Flickr