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November 19, 2015

Thompson Statement Opposing GOP Refugee Legislation

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, delivered the following prepared remarks on the House Floor in opposition to H.R. 4038, the GOP so-called “American SAFE Act”. Ranking Member Thompson offered an alternative, H.R. 4079 - the “Secure Refugee Process Act”, a pro-security, pro-compassion bill that would ensure the U.S. continues to maintain the most extensive interagency security screening process in the world.

“We live in uncertain and dangerous times with ever-evolving terrorist threats. The brutality that ISIL has inflicted on innocent people is chilling and demands action. We have a responsibility to do all we can to protect our citizens. In the wake of the Paris attacks, questions have been raised about the screening system that the U.S. utilizes and whether it could be exploited by a terrorist.

In recent days, however, we have seen a number of Governors, including the Governor of my home State, choose fear over facts. If they had done their research, they would have learned that our program is an extensive, thirteen step process.

It starts with a referral from the U.N. of a pre-screened person within its refugee camps, requires DHS to do in-person interviews, and subjects each applicant to recurrent vetting against DHS, the State Department, FBI, DoD, and Intelligence Community terrorist and criminal databases.

Unlike in Europe, where migrants crossed into countries that had little opportunity to vet them, no alien is allowed onto U.S. soil until all the checks are complete to DHS’ satisfaction. It generally takes between 18 to 24 months for an applicant to get through our refugee process. It is a multi-layered, multi-agency approach where the FBI has veto authority on any applicant seeking refugee status.

While no system is risk-free, the protections in place in the American system are rigorous, robust and extensive. In fact, yesterday, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told the Committee that “No refugee program in the world [is] as extensive as what the U.S. does.”

Yet, here we are today, considering a bill that would upend the current system, which was developed by security professionals, with one that is so onerous that its true purpose can only be to end refugee admissions from Syria and Iraq. 

We must stand strong against fearmongers and resist calls to turn our backs on the victimized and vulnerable who have been displaced by the Syrian Civil War. To do so would not only be un-American but may make us less secure, as ISIL would certainly seek to capitalize on it for terrorist recruitment.

This bill will do nothing to make us safer because it will never become law. The President has already said he would veto the bill. We should embrace facts over fear and vote against H.R. 4038.”

Video - Thompson in opposition to H.R. 4038:

Video - Thompson in support of alternative H.R. 4079

Supporting Documents:
Oppose H.R. 4038
Thompson (H.R. 4079) Bill Summary
Thompson (H.R. 4079) Bill Text
Administration Officials on the Vetting Process
Letter from Chertoff and Napolitano Supporting Current Process
Steps of Vetting Process (USCRI)

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Media contact: Adam Comis at (202) 225-9978