Obama refugee plan targeted after attacks

Obama refugee plan targeted after attacks
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President Obama’s plan to allow 10,000 new Syrian refugees into the U.S. is facing fresh criticism after Friday evening’s terror attacks across Paris, which were carried out by least one person who had reportedly slipped into France among the migrants.

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The White House is insisting that nothing had changed, and that the United States is fully capable of vetting the refugees.

Yet top lawmakers and GOP presidential candidates made clear on Sunday that they don’t have the same confidence in U.S. intelligence, due to the lingering blind spots caused by the chaos in Syria. According to reports, at least one of the men behind the Paris attack, which killed 129 people in a string of coordinated violence, made his way into the country by hiding himself among refugees.

"We won’t be able to take more refugees,” Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration MORE (R-Fla.) bluntly declared on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos." “It’s not that we don’t want to — it’s that we can’t. Because there’s no way to background check someone that’s coming from Syria.”

“You can’t pick up the phone and call Syria,” added Rubio, whose presidential campaign has been on the upswing in recent days.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) echoed the concern about the U.S. officials’ inability to peer deeply into the past of the thousands of refugees on course to enter the country.

“We are losing the capability to track these terrorists around the globe,” he claimed on CBS’s Face the Nation.” “There's no possible way to screen them. It should be stopped immediately.”

Earlier this year, in the face of global outrage about the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the millions of desperate refugees fleeing the country’s borders, the Obama administration announced that it would increase the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. next year to 10,000.

That’s a dramatic increase from the roughly 2,000 refugees that have so far been admitted into the country, but still relatively minor compared to policies of some countries in Europe and the Middle East. Of the more than 4 million Syrian refugees, 2 million have fled to Turkey. Germany expects to take in 800,000 this year.

On Sunday, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes insisted that the administration’s plans remain on course.

“We’re still planning on taking in Syrian refugees,” Rhodes said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We had very robust vetting procedures for those refugees.”

“There are women and children, orphans of this war, and I think we need to do our part along with our allies to provide them a safe haven.”

It’s clear, however, that the plan will face new opposition from Congress in light of Friday night’s carnage.

Top Republican lawmakers had long been concerned about the ability of Islamic extremists to slip in among the refugees’ ranks, and they appear primed to fight back in light of the Paris killings.

“We don’t want to be complicit with a program that could bring potential terrorists into the United States,” insisted House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

President Obama is “rolling the dice” with this refugee plan, added Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the former chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

The debate appears primed to spread to the campaign trail, as multiple top Republicans claimed that Obama’s plan was yet further evidence of what they call his underestimation of ISIS's strength.

“Bringing people into this country from that area of the world I think is a huge mistake, because why wouldn’t they infiltrate them with people who are ideologically opposed to us?” GOP candidate and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The White House has insisted that refugees will be fully vetted, both by the U.S. as well as international officials.

However, the claim has gotten some pushback from members of the president’s own administration.

Earlier this year, FBI Director James Comey warned a Senate panel that intelligence officials had “gaps” in their ability to screen the refugees, due to the lack of reliable information coming out of Syria.

“There is no such thing as a no-risk enterprise and there are deficits that we face,” Comey testified in October.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) declined to specifically address the refugee issue during a pair of Sunday show appearances. Instead, he focused his remarks on the ongoing chaos in Syria, which a global effort has so far failed to halt.

“I think we need to do thorough screening and take a limited number, but ultimately the best way to deal with the refugee crisis is to create safe zones inside of Syria,” the GOP presidential candidate said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“The great majority of refugees need to be safely kept in Syria,” he said later, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Which means the safe zones need to be serious.”

In the wake of Friday evening’s attack, multiple analysts have also wondered whether France will turn to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which states that an attack on country is an attack on all.

Multiple Republicans on Sunday urged the French to consider invoking that measure, as a means to ramp up the international effort against ISIS.

“Hopefully President [Francois] Hollande will call Article 5 of NATO in and maybe we'll put together a coalition that can for once attack this horrific terrorist element before they have ability to carry out another coordinated attack like this,” said Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program Facebook under fire over Russian ads in election 5 senators call for US to shutter embassy in Havana MORE (R-N.C.).

If Paris decides to invoke Article 5, Rhodes on Sunday indicated that the U.S. would be willing to support it.

“That’s a decision for the French to make,” the White House aide said on “Meet the Press.” “What we've made clear to the French is we will be shoulder to shoulder with them in this response.”