Better refugee screening, bipartisan gun bill needed to protect homeland
© Getty Images

Last week, an ISIS attack killed 45 people and injured over 200 others after coordinated suicide bombers attacked Turkey’s Istanbul Atatürk Airport. This is the eighth time this year that ISIS has targeted a Western city and killed or wounded at least ten civilians. Following the attack, CIA Director John Brennan warned that he would “be surprised if (ISIS) is not trying to carry out that kind of attack in the United States.”

The threat of ISIS to our homeland is real and needs to be taken seriously. After last weekend’s terror attack in Bangladesh claimed 28 lives, The New York Times reports over 1,200 people have been killed due to ISIS-coordinated or -inspired terror attacks outside of Syria and Iraq. Yet the Administration continues to focus on policies that threaten our national security. Accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees by September 2016 without airtight screening procedures in place to prevent terrorist infiltration of refugee flows into the U.S. puts American lives at potential risk of a similar attack. Most concerning is that fact while we accepted only 1,682 Syrian refugees in 2015, a politically motivated deadline resulted in over 2,300Syrian refugees entering the U.S. in June 2016 alone. This clearly is a development that puts our security second to partisan politics.


This so-called expedited screening process could be exploited by members of ISIS to infiltrate the U.S. and execute acts of terror on our soil. In fact, this has happened before. In January 2016, two Iraqi refugees were arrested by U.S. authorities in an ongoing terrorism investigation, including one who pledged allegiance on social media to various terrorist organizations. And in 2009, two al-Qaeda terrorist bomb-makers successfully infiltrated the Iraqi refugee program to resettle in Kentucky. It’s no wonder over 80 percent of Americans feel nervous about our Nation’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks.

Protecting Americans at home is the paramount responsibility of our government. After the ISIS attack in Brussels earlier this year, I championed increased funding to train explosive-detecting canine teams to screen passengers and luggage and make our airports safer from the ISIS attacks we saw last week in Istanbul. At my request, the Department of Homeland Security sent eight additional canine teams to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Securing our airports with canine teams is more crucial than ever to protect the flying public at O’Hare and Midway.

The Orlando tragedy made it clear that, beyond securing our airports, we must also take steps to prevent weapons from getting into the hands of suspected terrorists. That is why I am fighting for legislation that gives the Attorney General the authority to deny firearm sales to individuals who appear on the No Fly List. If you are too dangerous to fly on an airplane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun.

My colleague, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins joins Democrats in bid to undo Trump methane emissions rollback Biden dispatches Cabinet members to sell infrastructure plan Senate confirms SEC chief Gensler to full five-year term MORE of Maine, introduced a bipartisan compromise that I believe is our best chance to quickly pass this necessary legislation. I cosponsored her bill, which includes a “look-back” provision that notifies the FBI if a person who has been on the list in the past five years purchases a firearm, because we need a bipartisan solution to this problem.

ISIS’s coordinated suicide bombings in Turkey reminds us that terrorists remain committed to attacking innocent civilians all over the world. At a time when the terrorist threat to American families and our allies is growing, we need to pass commonsense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to harm Americans. While we focus on protecting Americans from threats already on our soil, the Administration should pause Syrian refugee flows into the United States until it can prevent any and all terrorist infiltration.

We cannot let Washington gridlock put more Americans at risk. In honor of the 49 innocent victims who lost their lives in Orlando and the countless others who have been killed in senseless attacks across the U.S., I will continue to work across the aisle and call on my colleagues to take the steps necessary to prevent future attacks.