Washington: Republican-dominated US House of Representatives will vote to pause Syrian refugee programme, Speaker Paul Ryan said today, soon after President Barack Obama fiercely rebuked them against freezing the programme.
Obama, who strongly favor accepting Syrian refugees, has struck out at his political foes, accusing them of demonizing “widows and orphans.”
Obama has also vowed to veto a bill from House Republicans that would increase screening for Syrian and Iraqi refugees before they enter the United States.
Ryan, who was recenly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, said: “The first duty of our government is to keep the American people safe. That’s why today the House will vote on a plan to pause our Syrian refugee programme.”
“If our law enforcement and intelligence community cannot verify that each and every person coming here is not asecurity threat, then they shouldn’t be allowed in,” he told reporters.
Arguing that the government can’t certify these standards, Ryan said the Republican move pauses the Syrian refugee programme.
“It’s a security test, not a religious test. This reflects our values. This reflects our responsibilities. And this is urgent. We cannot and should not wait to act, not when our national security is at stake,” he said.
Describing it as an important first step, Ryan stressed the need “to do more, not just about the refugees, but in the fight against (the) ISIS.”
“The defence bill that we sent to the President this week requires him to present a plan to defeat ISIS. In the meantime, our task force will continue the work on these grave challenges,” he said.
Ryan referred to the recent statements made by the US Secretary for Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, on the Syrian refugees.
“It is true that we are not going to know a whole lot about the Syrians that come forth in this process. We know that organisations like ISIL might like to exploit this programme. The bad news is that there is no risk-free process,” Johnson said.
“There is risk associated with bringing anybody in from the outside, but especially from a conflict zone like Syria. My concern is that there are certain gaps I don’t want to talk about publicly in the data available to us,” FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.
“Our own law enforcement experts are telling us they don’t have confidence that they can detect or block, with the current standards in place, that ISIL or ISIS is not trying to infiltrate the refugee population. This is an urgent matter and that is why we’re dealing with this urgently,” Ryan said.