Dems defend Syrian refugee plan after Paris attacks

Greg Nash
Senate Democrats are rallying around a push to increase the number of Syrian refugees accepted into the United States, amid growing Republican calls to halt the program after last Friday’s Paris attacks. 
“Several people have reacted to the tragedy in France … by calling for us to suspend refugees coming to this country. Many of these people have not reflected on the refugee situation,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, adding that calls to halt the acceptance of refugees are “shortsighted” and a “retreat from American values.” 
{mosads}The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat added that “these refugees are each carefully investigated, reviewed, and vetted. … We do everything humanly possible and take extraordinary efforts to make certain that dangerous people do not arrive on our shores.” 
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) added that calls to block Syrian refugees from coming into the country “represents giving in to our worst ethnic and religious prejudices.” 
“Syria is a war zone and we have a duty to ensure our own homeland security,” he added. “[But] let’s remember that the enemy in the current scenario is ISIS [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria], not the refugees who flee from their destruction.” 
Republicans are suggesting that the attacks in Paris, which killed 129 people and injured hundreds more, underscore their long-held national security concerns that a member of a terrorist organization could sneak into the United States disguised as a refugee. 
The terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and one fake passport suggested that at least one of the attackers posed as a Syrian refugee, accessing France through Greece.
Democrats have walked a fine line on the refugee issue as pressure grows on lawmakers to, at least temporarily, suspend the refugee program in the wake of the Paris attacks.
The House’s plan to vote this week on halting the administration’s plan could set up a tough vote for Democrats going into the 2016 election where national security will likely be a top issue. 
In the wake of the attacks, Democratic Sens. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) both stressed that the administration must carefully and thoroughly vet any refugees accepted into the country. 
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, added that lawmakers first “should understand the vetting process.” 
He added that the process for refugees entering the United States is vastly different than when refugees enter Europe. 
“I think it’s inconsistent with using the American Refugee Program to try to embed a terrorist to come into the United States,” he said. “The vetting process involves many agencies, takes a long period of time, and we do make sure that they have no affiliations with any terrorist organizations. … So there’s a very, very rigorous vetting process that takes place.”
But the fight over refugees is already showing cracks among Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) signed a letter to Obama on Monday, saying that no Syrian refugees should be accepted “unless the U.S. government can guarantee, with 100 percent assurance” that they are not affiliated with ISIS.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), however, called the largely Republican comments to halt the acceptance of refugees “wrongheaded,” adding, “It saddens me.” 
“Should we make sure that our vetting processes are fine? Of course we should,” he added. “But we’re not going to let in a pregnant woman, we’re not going to let in five-year-old kids? I mean, is that who America is these days?” 
Kaine and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), are expected to renew their call for legislation authorizing the war against ISIS on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon. 
Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced legislation earlier this year that would give the administration an extra $1 billion in funding to help combat the refugee crisis. While Graham appeared to distance himself from that legislation on Monday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) suggested the extra money is “more important now.” 
“You need it to help build and add to an air-tight vetting system. This is moment where we should be supporting more funding for refugee resettlement,” he said. “I think it’s a complete to think you can cut off immigration from country and make this country safe.” 
Tags Ben Cardin Chris Murphy Christopher Coons Dianne Feinstein Dick Durbin Jeff Flake Joe Manchin Lindsey Graham Martin Heinrich Patrick Leahy Tim Kaine

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