The House Just Voted to Prevent Syrian Refugees From Coming to the US

Source: AP
Source: AP

The House of Representatives voted Thursday afternoon to approve a bill that would bar refugees from Syria and Iraq from entering the United States unless they passed a uniquely stringent background-check process. 

The measure passed 289 to 137, with unanimous support from congressional Republicans and nearly 50 Democrats crossing the aisle in direct conflict with President Barack Obama, who has vowed to veto any legislation that creates "significant delays and obstacles in the fulfillment of a vital program that satisfies both humanitarian and national security objectives."

The American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015, as the bill is titled, stipulates that any Iraqi or Syrian citizen may only be admitted into the U.S. after "the Secretary of Homeland Security, with the unanimous concurrence of the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Director of National Intelligence, certifies to the appropriate Congressional Committees that the covered alien is not a threat to the security of the United States." 

"Our nation has always been welcoming, but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion," House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters upon the bill's introduction on Tuesday. "This is a moment where it's better to be safe than to be sorry."

Despite its veto-proof majority support in a vote before the full House, however, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Minority Leader Harry Reid told reporters on Thursday that the measure will likely die. "We've explained here in some detail: The problem is not with refugees," Reid said. "I don't think we're going to be dealing with it over here."

Even if the American SAFE Act were to pass the Senate, it would need a two-thirds majority vote in the chamber to defeat Obama's promised veto, which the White House doubled down on ahead of Thursday afternoon's vote.

"Based on the population of individuals that do come to the United States under the refugee program, 98% of them are children, are women or families," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters ahead of the vote. "I think that gives you a sense of the kind of people that are helped by this program."

Earnest also reminded Capitol Hill that France, still reeling from a series of terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday that left at least 129 dead and hundreds more injured, is moving in the opposite direction when it comes to refugees from Syria's civil war. 

"France intends to move forward with their commitment to accept 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years," Earnest said. "Surely if the nation that has endured, first hand, this heinous terrorist attack can follow through on their commitments to meet the basic humanitarian needs of Syrian citizens who are fleeing violence in their home country, surely the United States of America can muster the same courage."

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Scott Bixby

Scott is a senior correspondent at Mic, covering the Republican presidential campaign and LGBT issues. He is based in New York and can be reached at scott@mic.com.

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