BY ISN STAFF | January 19, 2016
The Ignatian Solidarity Network has joined a broad coalition of immigration law experts, humanitarian organizations, and other faith groups in signing a letter to the U.S. Senate denouncing a piece of legislation that would suspend the admission of Syrian refugees. Among the 200 national groups signing the letter were the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, Jesuit Refugee Service, Catholic Charities USA, NETWORK, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Oxfam.
Tomorrow, January 20th, the U.S. Senate will vote on the American Security against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015, or H.R. 4038. If passed, the bill would bring the resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to a halt until additional screening measures can be implemented by the FBI. However, the letter’s signers argue that refugees are already screened more rigorously than any other group entering the U.S.—a process that involves multiple security agencies, including the FBI.
“Refugees undergo a series of biometric and investigatory background checks, including collection and analysis of personal data, fingerprints, photographs, and other background information, all of which is checked against government databases,” the letter said. “The entire process typically takes more than two years and often much more before the refugee would arrive in the U.S. In addition the Administration is already taking steps, with its existing authority, to increase the capacity of its security and screening procedures for refugees. There is no need for Congress to impose additional restrictions or security measures.”
Noting that Syrian refugees are those fleeing desperate circumstances, the letter further says that defunding or pausing the Syrian refugee resettlement program would “jeopardize the United States’ moral leadership in the world” and encourage “extremist propaganda.”
In November, H.R. 4038 moved quickly through congressional procedures and passed the U.S. House by a vote of 289-173 just two days after being introduced. Now the bill awaits a Senate vote amid a heated debate in the United States and several European countries concerning how best to deal with the influx of Syrian migrants fleeing a years-long civil war and a surge in terrorist violence. President Obama has said he will veto the bill if it passes Senate.