House effort would put Congress in charge of refugees

House effort would put Congress in charge of refugees
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A new effort in the House would put Congress — not the executive branch — in charge of making determinations about refugees brought into the United States.

Rep. Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program House votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties House Judiciary Dems want panel to review gun silencer bill MORE (R-Va.), the head of the House Judiciary Committee, on Monday introduced legislation to overhaul the nation’s refugee system along with Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), in the latest volley of a protracted struggle over the process.

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The new Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act would cap the number of refugees allowed into the country each year at 60,000, and put Congress in charge of deciding whether or not to lift it. The legislation also would make it easier for states to refuse to take refugees, and impose a handful of requirements aimed at preventing fraud and boosting security.

The changes would allow “the people’s duly elected representatives in Congress, not the president,” to decide how many refugees are admitted, Goodlatte said in a statement.

“To continue America’s long history of welcoming those in need, we must restore confidence in the safeguards protecting our security,” added Labrador.

The bill will come up for a vote in the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. 

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have repeatedly battled the Obama administration over the fate of refugees fleeing the chaos in Syria. 

The administration has called for the U.S. to increase the number of refugees it accepts in response to the Syrian crisis, which has consumed neighboring countries and overwhelmed Europe. But Capitol Hill has fought back, largely out of security concerns following U.S. officials’ comments about the ability to adequately screen the migrants. 

House lawmakers voted to temporarily block the administration from bringing Syrian refugees into the U.S. last year, but the issue got tangled up in the Senate.

Still, the administration’s promises to welcome more refugees have resulted in few Syrians coming to the U.S. In the last six months, only about 1,100 Syrian refugees have come to the U.S., far short of the pace needed to meet the 10,000 this year called for by Obama.