Doyle Votes for Stronger Refugee Screening Process

Washington, DC – November 19, 2015 – U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) released the following statement today after House consideration of legislation to improve the security screening process for refugees seeking to enter the United States.

Today I voted in support of strong legislation to improve refugee screening procedures – the Thompson-Lofgren Secure Refugee Process Act. This legislation would: 

  • Require five federal agencies - the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence – to check refugee applications against their records before a refugee could set foot on U.S. soil. Any application that indicated a national security or criminal threat would be DENIED.
  • Require the Secretary of Homeland Security to verify the identity of refugee applicants before a refugee could set foot on U.S. soil. Any application that contained insufficient, conflicting, or unreliable information would be DENIED.
  • Require the Secretary of Homeland Security to certify that the all relevant Federal immigration laws had been complied with, and that the applicant had not been resettled in a safe third-party country, before a refugee could set foot on U.S. soil. 
  • Require the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General to submit monthly reports to Congress on refugee applications from Syrians and Iraqis.

The Thompson-Lofgren Secure Refugee Process Act would strengthen the existing refugee screening process, in marked contrast to the bill that passed the House, the McCaul-Hudson bill, which would for the most part just create more red tape and paperwork without making our country any safer. I voted in favor of the stronger bill. 

Like most Members of Congress, I want to help the desperate, vulnerable refugees fleeing ISIS and its campaign of murder and destruction in Syria. Also like most of my colleagues, I want to take every reasonable step to protect US citizens and our society from terrorists at home and abroad. I believe that we can do both. 

We’ve got a thorough, high-quality security process for screening refugees in place today. This process involves the FBI, the National Counter-terrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense – and it takes 18-24 months to complete. Anyone who doesn’t pass this screening process isn’t allowed into our country. Less than 10 percent of Syrians who apply to enter the country as refugees are approved. Of the few we do let in, 98 percent are women and children. 

I support making the changes contained in the Thompson-Lofgren Secure Refugee Process Act to make our refugee screening process even stronger. If House Republicans were really serious about making this country safer and reducing the terrorist threat facing Americans here at home, they would have supported the Thompson-Lofgren Secure Refugee Process Act. They didn’t.

If House Republicans were really serious about making this country safer and reducing the terrorist threat facing Americans here at home, they would be bringing up legislation to close the loophole in the visa waiver program that allows terrorists from dozens of countries to enter the United States legally without a visa, without a background check, and without delay. At least six of the Paris attackers were French and Belgian citizens – they wouldn’t have had to go through the comprehensive 18- to 24-month background check that Syrian refugees do; they could have hopped on a plane and flown here legally. But House Republicans haven’t addressed this potentially serious threat.

If House Republicans were really serious about making this country safer and reducing the terrorist threat facing Americans here at home, they would be bringing up legislation to close the loophole that allows firearms purchases in this country by individuals who are on the terrorist watch list. According to the Associated Press, 247 people on the federal government’s terrorist watch list legally purchased guns from licensed firearms dealers in the United States last year. It shouldn’t be legal for someone on the terrorist watch list to buy a gun. Congress should close that loophole, too, and that’s why I’m cosponsoring HR 1076, legislation that would authorize the Attorney General to prohibit the sale of firearms and explosives to individuals that have engaged in terrorism or provided material support for terrorist activities. Unfortunately, the House GOP leadership hasn’t allowed a vote on such legislation. 

I hope that we can get down to work soon on bipartisan legislation that makes real improvements in the security programs set up to protect our citizens from terrorists.