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After Paris, lawmakers divided on Syrian refugee placement

Last week's gruesome attack in Paris has sparked an unyielding debate among state and federal lawmakers, with Virginia Sen. Dick Black urging Gov. Terry McAuliffe to block refugees from entering the commonwealth, U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock saying the government is ill-equipped to handle an onslaught of refugees and Sen. Tim Kaine calling those mindsets “xenophobic.”

The declarations come several days after a well-coordinated ISIS attack in Paris killed 129 people and critically injured hundreds more. One of the suicide terrorists appeared to be carrying a Syrian passport, which has led dozens of GOP leaders to demand President Obama halt any plans to accept refugees in the U.S.

Obama in September announced the U.S. will take in thousands of refugees in the months ahead. But the scene in Paris and tumultuous conditions in the Middle East have given many Americans anxiety over welcoming citizens from across the globe.

“Leaders from the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Department of Homeland Security have told the House Homeland Security Committee that they do not have the necessary ‘on-the-ground intelligence’ to ‘thoroughly’ vet Syrian refugees,” Comstock (R) said Tuesday.

Comstock continued, “The administration’s policies on Syrian refugees should be suspended and a full review of the program and its security risks should be undertaken along with aggressive congressional oversight.”

“We are a welcoming nation, but the safety and security of the American people must be our number one priority,” Comstock said.

Kaine (D) agreed Americans' safety is the chief concern, but he said many refugees have already been vetted and should be provided an escape from their war-torn regions.

"I am very disappointed in the xenophobic response from governors across the country who vowed to keep Syrian families who have passed rigorous background checks from entering their states – refugees who are fleeing the very same violence and terror that we saw on the streets of Paris last week,” Kaine said.

According to the White House, screening procedures for refugees include “rigorous, thorough, and deliberate screening procedures, including fingerprint and biographic checks, interviews by specially trained Homeland Security officers who scrutinize the applicant’s explanation of individual circumstances and enhanced classified screening measures for Syrian refugees.”

On the state level, Sen. Black (R) said Virginia “cannot keep the federal government from doing what harm it will, but we can refuse to assist them in any respect.”

In a letter to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), Black wrote: “French President Hollande disregarded a multitude of warnings, and admitted large numbers of Syrian refugees into his country. Almost immediately, one of them became a suicide bomber, implicated in the murder of 122 Frenchmen. I believe it would be irresponsible for us to repeat this tragic blunder.”

Virginia liberals quickly pushed back against Black and other calls to refuse refugees.

Anna Scholl, executive director of the left-leaning ProgressVA advocate group, said the U.S. has always prided itself on being a refuge from terror and tyranny. Moreover, Scholl said, states have little control and authority over federal immigration law and directives.

“Our country has a rich history built by those who left violence and persecution elsewhere for a better life,” Scholl said. “Sen. Black well knows the commonwealth has no authority to block refugees from seeking haven here. His cravenly political demands only alienate and stigmatize families fleeing from destruction and terror caused by a common enemy.”

Approximately 24 Syrian refugees have resettled in Virginia since 2014, according to the Refugee Processing Center. None are believed to be in Loudoun County.

Yasmine Taeb, an American immigrant from Iran and Democrat who ran for the House of Delegates, said the terrorist carrying the Syrian passport was not someone who had gone through the refugee resettlement process, that which those coming into the U.S. are subject to.

“We see this as our obligation and our responsibility to welcome those most vulnerable,” said Taeb, who called Black's letter a “knee-jerk reaction.”

“Many of the refugees are trying to escape the same terror that the people in Paris witnessed,” she said “I wouldn't have had the opportunities. I can't imagine how my life would've turned out if I wasn't able to come to America.”

A McAuliffe spokesman said the governor's office is working closely with federal and state security officials to ensure the placement of Syrian refugees in the commonwealth is safe.

Republican leaders in the GOP-led House of Representatives, including Comstock ally and new Speaker Paul Ryan, were considering Nov. 17 whether to introduce legislation aimed at combatting the Obama administration's refugee proposal.


Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @TrevorBaratko.


Comments


We do not need to put sleepers in our community. Better to make Syria liveable for it’s people. Keep the war off our shore.


I love the way the supporters of importing refugees here tell us it takes two years to do background checks, so it must be thorough. That’s the measure of thoroughness.

How about a folder sitting in a pile on a desk for five years. Must really be thorough!

Kaine and McAuliffe can sponsor the refugees…  in their own homes.


According to FBI director James Comey, the United States will not know if there are terrorists among the Syrian refugees expected to pour into the country.

Comey reported to members of the House Committee on Homeland Security during an Oct. 21 hearing, saying that the federal government cannot conduct thorough background checks on all those entering the United States, because it can only compare refugees’ names to information already in a data base.

“We can only query against that which we have collected,” Comey said.

Comey said the only known way to identify potential terrorists is if a person had already conducted activities in Syria to put them on the federal government’s radar. There may be others who are likely to commit terrorist attacks, but haven’t yet and therefore are not in the American system.

“And so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them,” said Comey.


Barbara voted for the amnesty budget and yet how many of those illegals were vetted. Could this be political posturing on her part as there would only be 100k Syrians where they are millions of illegals from south of the border?
Is Kaine a xenomorph?

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