November 22, 2015
As seen in:
Idaho Press Tribune
Across America, the prospect of resettling as many as 10,000 Syrians has put citizens on edge. The Paris massacre and related events-ISIS' bombing of a Russian commercial airliner, the Beirut suicide bombers who killed 43, Germany's emergency evacuation of a soccer stadium prior to a game that Chancellor Angela Merkel was scheduled to attend, and diverted Paris-bound flights-has made the nation skeptical about President Obama's terrorism strategy.
Thirty-four U.S. governors have told the White House that they will refuse to accept Syrians in their states. Their objections include being kept in the dark about how many and when the refugees will arrive in their states, and the lack of information made available about the migrants' backgrounds even though the State Department presumably knows the answers.
Obama's tepid response to the Paris crisis and his years of inaction against the Assad regime that helped initiate the migratory crisis has eroded America's confidence in the president. While Obama mocks his GOP opponents for what he claims is their fear of orphans and widows, every night Americans see on the news hundreds of young, fighting-age males among the migrants. Paris authorities confirmed that at least two terrorists held Syrian passports.
Meanwhile, FBI officials working 24/7 worry that they don't have enough resources to track the growing number of radicalized Americans inspired by the Islamic State. At least 900 active FBI cases are underway in all 50 states, with more terrorists possibly entering as Obama opens the floodgates to more Syrian refugees. As one FBI official put it, "We're one crack in the sidewalk away from another tragedy."
The FBI foresees a high terror threat through the New Year's holiday, and fears that future attacks that could have been plotted months ago in Syria will be carried out domestically by Islamic State-trained fighters on soft targets similar to those in Paris like sporting events, restaurants or entertainment venues. The agency has mounting evidence that ISIS has fine-tuned its bomb-making skills and distributed its knowledge through the Internet to U.S. sleeper cells.
Despite the lost lives in Paris, and testimony from security experts at the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Force that properly vetting the refugees is impossible, the Syrians may soon be in the U.S. unless Congress defunds the $1.2 billion resettlement program, an action itself that may be problematic.
When it comes to immigration-related issues, the Republican-controlled Congress is viewed with as much apprehension as the White House. Nevertheless, the House introduced a bill to pause Syrian migration that would require Homeland Security, the FBI and the intelligence community to sign off on every refugee President Obama wants to bring to the U.S. Titled the American Safety Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015, or the American SAFE Act, the legislation would not stop Obama's goal of admitting 10,000 refugees this year, but it would force him to impose new checks.
Tellingly, a stronger bill doesn't have Republican leadership's support. U.S. Rep. Brian Babin's (R-TX) bill, the Refugee Resettlement Accountability National Security Act, would halt all resettlements until the General Accountability Office can fully evaluate the refugee program's cost and its national security risks.
The stakes are clear. In their joint August letter to Homeland Security Secretary Loretta Lynch, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry, Alabama Sens. Jeff Sessions and David Vitter demanded to know the immigration histories of 72 identified terrorists known to be within the U.S. The Sept. 4 deadline passed without a reply.
Americans, directly affected by the nation's refugee policy, want a voice but the White House consistently shuts them out.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow.