New US House bill would tighten refugee vetting
The House of Representatives could vote as early as Thursday on new legislation that requires stricter vetting for refugees fleeing Syria's civil war and seeking to settle in the United States.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks claimed by Islamic State extremists, and amid fears that one of the attackers entered Europe through Greece posing as a Syrian refugee, Republican leaders have sought to suspend President Barack Obama's plan to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into America in fiscal year 2016.
Homeland Security Committee chairman Michael McCaul said the bill, introduced Tuesday night, would impose new security measures on the already-lengthy vetting process, including assurances that a comprehensive background check would be conducted on every refugee from Syria and Iraq.
"The bill requires the nation's top security officials -- the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence -- to certify before admitting any Syrian or Iraqi refugee into the United States that the individual does not represent a security threat, the Republican McCaul said.
Congress is under extraordinary pressure to act. At least 27 US state governors have expressed opposition to Obama sending Syrian refugees to their states, with some ordering departments to halt all cooperation with federal refugee programs until tighter controls are implemented.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday that he wanted to see a vote on the measure by Thursday.
McCaul's office said the bill would "put in place the most robust national-security vetting process in history for any refugee population," and assure Americans that everything possible was being done to prevent terrorists from reaching US shores.
The White House has pushed back on the Republican fears, with Obama rebuking the concern about security risks as "hysteria."
Extremists struck Paris last Friday in coordinated attacks that killed 129 people and wounded hundreds.
© 2015 AFP