House Republicans Seek Blanket Ban on All Refugees
Following the mass shooting in Orlando, a large group of House Republicans are seeking to immediately ban all refugees from resettling in the United States regardless of country origin or profile, according to a memo and draft legislation obtained by Foreign Policy. The measure would go even further than Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to block the immigration of Muslims.
Following the mass shooting in Orlando, a large group of House Republicans is seeking to immediately ban all refugees from resettling in the United States regardless of country origin or profile, according to a memo and draft legislation obtained by Foreign Policy. The measure would go even further than Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to block the immigration of Muslims.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) and 85 other Republicans, prohibits the admission of refugees until Congress passes a joint resolution authorizing the Department of Homeland Security to resume the resettlement of foreigners. It also requires the Government Accountability Office to report on refugees who receive benefits under Medicare, Medicaid, disability insurance, and other programs.
“Our bill puts the safety of American citizens first by putting a moratorium on the refugee program until we can ensure this program does not constitute a security threat to our nation,” Babin wrote in a letter addressed to colleagues urging their support.
The letter largely mimics Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric by attacking the refugee screening process as “minimal” and lacking oversight.
Trump has launched a tirade against President Barack Obama’s resettlement program in recent days, saying there is “no system to vet” refugees. In fact, the U.S. screening process takes over two years and starts with vetting by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees followed by checks by U.S. security and intelligences agencies. The laborious process is a major reason that the U.S. is behind its goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees. Canada, by comparison, has brought in more than 27,000.
In justifying the legislation, Babin cited the massacre of 49 people at an Orlando nightclub by suspect Omar Mateen, who allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State before carrying out the terror attack. Though Mateen is not an immigrant (he’s the son of Afghan immigrants) Babin said that doesn’t matter. “We have radical jihad Islamists that are coming into our country. It may be one generation away, but nevertheless, they’re radicalizing,” he said during a radio interview on Breitbart Daily News Tuesday.
The draft bill is already receiving harsh criticism by humanitarian organizations who say the policy is unfair to refugees and contrary to American values. “Some members of Congress are cynically using the tragedy in Orlando to play on the fears of some Americans about Muslims, particularly asylum-seekers and refugees who are simply looking for safety from conflict and violence,” Noah Gottschalk, a senior policy adviser at Oxfam, told FP. “This legislation is not only unnecessary to keep America safe – as our nation’s top security experts have repeatedly said – but it is also un-American.”
The legislation is unlikely to overcome opposition from Democrats in the House and Senate. If necessary, it would likely prompt a veto from the White House.
The bill’s Republican co-sponsors include Reps. Mike Pompeo, Lynn Westmoreland, Michael McCaul, Pete Sessions, Steve Scalise, Raul Labrador and others.
Elsewhere in Congress, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut staged a filibuster on Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t clear the floor until Republicans agreed to consider gun control legislation in wake of the Orlando shootings.
“I’m going to remain on this floor until we get some signal, some sign … that we can get a path forward on addressing this epidemic in a meaningful, bipartisan way,” Murphy said.
One Democratic proposal would block gun purchases by individuals on terror watch lists, but a Republican Senate aide speaking to FP said the bill was unlikely to win GOP support after FBI Director Jim Comey warned that it could complicate FBI investigations.