There has been much conversation and debate over accepting refugees seeking asylum from their war-stricken countries. Last week, Congress voted on the American SAFE Act, H.R. 4038, which would expand background checks on Iraqi and Syrian refugees hoping to enter the United States. It has moved quickly through congressional procedures. The vote in favor was: 242 Republicans, 47 Democrats; against: two Republicans and 135 Democrats. U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, voted with the majority of Democrats, while U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village, voted with the majority of Republicans. Brownley’s decision has raised much controversy among her supporters. She issued the following statement on Nov. 20 regarding her vote on the American SAFE Act:
“Throughout my career, I have been a staunch advocate for welcoming refugees into the United States. In Congress, I have consistently fought for more funding for humanitarian aid, more visas, and more attention to the plight of families in war-torn countries around the world – whether in Central America, Iraq, Afghanistan, or Syria – who seek refuge in America. I have also called for President Obama to extend humanitarian parole to the Syrian families who have approved immigrant visa petitions and who have passed initial State and Homeland Security Department screening, so that they can come to the United States without further delay.
“At the same time, in the shadow of 9/11 and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut, I also understand the concerns of many Americans who worry about admitting refugees into the country without the most rigorous vetting and security checks possible. It is my strong belief that these programs may not continue at all, much less be expanded, if the American people are not convinced that our intelligence agencies are doing everything they possibly can to protect our national security.
“Under current law, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and our national security agencies already complete in-depth background checks on refugees – taking on average 18 to 24 months. The bill recently considered by the House (H.R. 4038) does not add any new agencies to the review process. It simply requires the existing agencies who review applications to certify that our laws have been followed and that the refugees do not pose a national security risk to our country. It is my strong belief that strengthening the security in the United States Refugee Admissions Program will lead to our being able to bring more refugees to the United States, not less.
“While I understand that there are very strong feelings on both sides of this issue, I am confident that the American people and Congress will continue to hold true to our history as a nation built by and strengthened by immigrants who want to come here to build a better life for their families. I remain steadfastly committed to that ideal, and taking the steps I believe are necessary to lead us closer to it.”