Reps. Babin and Meadows: To fight terror we must begin by securing our homeland

There are few issues all Americans agree on – but one issue that unites both Democrats and Republicans is an acknowledgement that terrorism is the top threat facing the United States.

In recent months the West has seen an uptick in terrorist attacks, from the Paris theatre massacre, to the San Bernardino shooting, to the recent Orlando terrorist attack all carried out by radicalized Islamic jihadists pledging loyalty to ISIS.

Americans are rightfully worried about the safety of the homeland.

One critical area in which the United States is extremely vulnerable to future attacks by radical Islamists is the Refugee Resettlement Program.  

Since 2009, nearly 500,000 foreign refugees from across the globe came into the United States under the federal Refugee Resettlement Program and were placed in communities across the country. This year, the Obama Administration will bring in an additional 75,000 refugees, including 10,000 refugees from Syria.

Despite the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, refugees from these parts of the world undergo minimal screening that cannot properly weed out those with potential ties to terrorism.

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul revealed that intelligence officials have confirmed ISIS is working to exploit vulnerabilities in the U.S.’s refugee program to import its terrorist operatives into America in the same way it successfully has in France and other European countries.

FBI Director James Comey admitted before a Congressional panel late last year that his agency isn’t capable of thoroughly vetting all Syrian refugees to ensure they pose no threat to the homeland.  And Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson went on to say the U.S. knows little about many refugees who are admitted into the country.

The U.S.’s inability to properly screen refugees entering the country is a result of the fact that tens of thousands of Syrians are displaced without proper documentation, forms of identification, or traceable work history. The U.S.’s screening process relies largely on trusting the determinations of the United Nations, an organization often at odds with U.S. interests.

Our nation is at war with radical Islam, now is not the time to cut corners screening individuals who are entering the United States from locales overrun with terrorist movements.

The House should pass the Resettlement Accountability National Security Prioritization Act of 2016 (RANSPA), which would place an immediate moratorium on refugees coming from the terrorist hotbeds of Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The bill directs the Administration to establish comprehensive screening measures and keeps the moratorium on refugees in place until Congress, by joint resolution, approves of new thorough screening measures to ensure that no individual be permitted into our nation that pose a national security threat to the homeland.

Further, the bill directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to produce a thorough report on the costs posed to U.S. taxpayers at the local, state, and federal level. 

Currently, refugees admitted into the U.S. are eligible to receive tax-payer funded services including: seven years of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), up to seven years of Medicaid coverage, five years of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) support, and eligibility for Food Stamps. 

Slowing the flow of refugee resettlement will have beneficial fiscal impacts at a time when our national debt has reached $19 trillion, and more importantly will help eliminate a looming national security threat.

While we believe we must always be compassionate towards those seeking asylum in the United States, at this time of heightened security risk we must prioritize our national security and the safety of every American above all else. We can’t wait any longer to secure our homeland.

The authors are both members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Republican Brian Babin represents Texas’ 36th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Follow him on Twitter@RepBrianBabin.

Republican Mark Meadows represents North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

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