On November 13th, three coordinated attacks across Paris shocked the world. ISIS killed 129 people, including an American citizen, and injured over 300. One of the terrorists posed as a Syrian refugee using a fake passport to enter Europe to carry out these devastating attacks. As America mourns with our oldest ally, France, for the vicious violence they experienced last Friday, the United States must take thoughtful and direct action to prevent these types of threats on American soil.
Although President Obama recently stated that ISIS has been contained and that our strategy against the terrorist group was working, recent events tell a very different story. Even the CIA director anticipates that additional ISIS attacks “are in the pipeline.” This kind of intelligence deserves swift action, but President Obama has rejected the idea of blocking potentially dangerous refugees from entering the United States.
Since 2011, the United States has accepted 2,200 Syrian refugees. Texas has accepted 242 refugees, and Houston serves as a home to over 100 of those individuals. Intelligence agencies like the FBI, Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security have expressed the challenges of vetting Syrian refugees, including lack of record keeping from their home country. Despite these concerns, President Obama wants to accept an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees, adding strain to U.S. intelligence agencies and truly putting the American people risk.
Today, Congress took action and voted on the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which I cosponsored, that requires the FBI Director to certify the background investigation of a refugee before they can enter the United States. If the individual does not have the records necessary to complete a thorough background check, they will not be allowed to enter. In addition to those safeguards, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence must certify to Congress that the refugee is not a threat to United States security. These reforms put additional protections in place to verify that any refugee the United States accepts has been through a thorough background check.
The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France, acts as a grand welcome to America and has the words etched, ”Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” but America’s open heart must not be exploited. It is time for significant reforms to protect our country.
Like the United States, France represents freedom and democracy- two traits that make us targets of these cowards. The violence we’ve seen is meant to weaken those shared traits, but the United States stands with our French ally in solidarity and Congress will do everything possible to protect the American people from similar attacks.