The top Republican lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives has called for a halt to the nation’s Syrian refugee resettlement program in the wake of last week’s Paris attacks.
CCTV’s Roee Ruttenberg reports:
Republicans work to shut US borders to Syrian refugeesThe top Republican lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives has called for a halt to the nation's Syrian refugee resettlement program in the wake of last week's Paris attacks. CCTV's Roee Ruttenberg reports.
Some of the alleged attackers had ties to Syria, and a Syrian passport was found during the investigation, raising the prospect that at least one attacker entered Europe as part of the immigration wave coming from Syria and Iraq.
Calling this a “moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry,” U.S. House Speaker, Paul Ryan, said he has assembled a task force to bring legislation to a vote as soon as this week.
“We’re looking at all of our options about how do we make sure that something like this doesn’t happen coming here to us with refugees,” Ryan said.
As of Tuesday evening, at least 26 U.S. governors have also threatened to stop accepting Syrian refugees in the wake of last week’s Paris attacks. The governors are all members of the political party in opposition to U.S. President Barack Obama.
Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, said under the Refugee Act of 1980, governors cannot legally block entry to refugees.
Each state has a refugee coordinator, a post created as part of that law, she said. Funded by the federal government, the post coordinates resettlement efforts with agencies such as her’s, and directs federal funds for refugees.
“The thing I most fear is that we will lose bipartisan support,” said a senior U.S. official on a conference call with the media who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We’ve had for this program for decades. This is a very precious thing. ”
The official said she and others in the U.S. government are speaking to many of those governors on a conference call on Tuesday to offer reassurance.
The U.S. has admitted fewer than 2,200 Syrian refugees since Oct. 1, 2011, and the process for entering this country as a refugee is 18-24 months. A little more than half of the Syrian refugees who apply are currently admitted to the United States, officials said.
Syrian refugees also receive an additional level of scrutiny, including biographical and biometric screening, which is done in person by an immigration official who has been specially trained, officials added. Iraqis applying for refuge, actually have a lot of verifiable paperwork and sometimes Syrians do too, they said.
The official said that they have to do “the best they can with the resources they have” when it comes to determining if Syrian refugees have a criminal past in their home country.
Obama administration officials insist the vetting is good and that there is no need to back down from the goal of admitting 10,000 more refugees in the next 12 months.
On Monday U.S. President Barack Obama argued that the United States needs to allow them in because many are fleeing terrorism.
To learn more about U.S. refugee admissions by country of origin or destination community, visit Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System with data on refugee admissions dating back to 2002. The organization also has a list of resettlement agency partners as well as additional information on the resettlement process.
Story by CCTV America’s Jessica Stone with information from the Associated Press.
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