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American SAFE Act Passes House, Sessions Skeptical

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, November 19, 2015, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) announced that he had voted in favor of HR4038, the American SAFE Act of 2015, which passed the US House of Representatives with bipartisan support despite the threat of a Presidential veto.

Congressman Byrne said in a statement, “I’m committed to doing everything in my power to stop the Syrian refugee resettlement program. The bill that passed the House today would require the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence to all certify that each individual refugee does not represent a security threat before any refugee can be allowed into the United States.  As some Democrats point out, this bill would delay the Syrian refugee process for at least two years.”

jeff-sessionsWednesday, November 18, US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) issued a statement critical of the House bill.

Sen. Sessions wrote, “The current proposal being considered in the House in response to the President’s dangerous refugee plan – the American SAFE Act – fails to defend the interests of the American people. It is based on a flawed premise, as there is simply no way to vet Syrian refugees. Just over a month ago, officials from the Department of Homeland Security admitted before the Immigration Subcommittee that there is no database in Syria against which they can run a check. They have no way to enter Syria to verify the applicants’ personal information. And we know the region is being flooded with false documents.”

Rep. Byrne said, “Today’s bill is just the start of a larger response to the Syrian refugee crisis. I will continue to push the House to pass my bill, which would defund the Syrian refugee resettlement program and ensure no Syrian refugees enter the United States. The national security of the American people must always be our top priority.”

HR4038, the American SAFE Act of 2015, would require that the Secretary of National Security, the Director of the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence all unanimously certify that a refugee does not represent a security threat. The bill passed by a veto-proof vote of 289 to 137.

While traveling overseas, President Obama issued a veto threat on the bill.

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Rep. Byrne said, “While President Obama is issuing veto threats from halfway around the world, the People’s House is focused on listening to our constituents and keeping the American people safe. It is inexcusable for the President to threaten to veto a bill which would help keep the American people safe.”
Sen. Sessions said, “When the Administration was asked if Syrian refugees could end up coming to the United States and joining ISIS like Minnesota’s Somali refugees, the answer was blunt: we can’t predict the future. Each year, the US permanently resettles more than 100,000 Muslim migrants inside the United States. In just the last year, refugees and migrants allowed into America from Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ghana, Kuwait and Bangladesh have been implicated in terrorism.

And, as we have seen, the U.S.-born children of migrants are also at risk for radicalization.  Ignoring this reality, the American SAFE Act allows the President to continue to bring in as many refugees as he wants from anywhere in the world. With respect to Syria and Iraq, the American SAFE Act requires only that the President direct his Secretary of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, and FBI Director (all his appointees) to sign off on the administration’s screening process – a process that the White House continually asserts is adequate and ‘ensures safety.’ The plain fact is that this bill transfers the prerogative from Congress to President Obama and ensures the President’s refugee resettlement initiative will continue unabated.”

Sen. Sessions said, “The President can easily veto the measure as well. There is only one true check now against the President going it alone: Congressional funding. In his annual budget request, the President asked for more than $1 billion to fund the Refugee Admissions Program. All Congress has to do is make clear that the President’s funding request will not be granted unless he meets certain necessary Congressional requirements – the first of which should be to make clear that Congress, not the President, has the final say on how many refugees are brought into the United States and from where….The House plan does not offset a single penny of increased refugee resettlement costs. As currently structured, the House plan would give the President the money he wants for refugee resettlement and then leave taxpayers on the hook now and in the years to come for the tens of billions of dollars in uncapped welfare, education, and entitlement costs certain to accrue. Thus, in addition to the enormous welfare costs – 91 percent of recent Middle Eastern refugees are on food stamps and 73 percent receive free healthcare – we will also be taking money directly from Americans’ Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds to provide retirement benefits for refugees. The real costs of this refugee expansion has not even been ascertained.”

Sessions estimated that the American taxpayers will be on the hook for $55 billion in additional cost over the lifetime of the 85,000 Syrians being imported by the administration.

On Monday, Rep. Byrne sent a letter to President Obama demanding he halt the Syrian refugee resettlement program.  Byrne has also co-sponsored HR3573, the Refugee Resettlement Oversight and Security Act, which would give Congress the power to block any refugee resettlement plan and would require Congress to approve any plan before refugees can arrive in the United States.

Senator Jeff Sessions is the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and the National Interest Subcommittee.

The bill passed by a veto-proof vote of 289 to 137.

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Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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