There is no doubt that we must address the threat of ISIS, which is expanding its efforts to recruit new radicals and train them to conduct jihad against innocents. ISIS and the Assad regime have also subjected the Syrian people to unspeakable violence and terror, inciting a refugee crisis, but we must remember that Congress has no greater responsibility under the Constitution than to protect the well-being of the American people.
This week, I attended classified briefings on the attacks and how they impact the resettlement of refugees. Our intelligence and security leaders cannot say with certainty that an individual entering our country under refugee status poses no threat to our national security. I am very concerned about the effectiveness of our current screening process for refugees; that is why I voted in favor of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act on Thursday, which halts the resettlement of Syrian refugees given the vulnerabilities in our security screening procedures.
Agency leaders have indicated on multiple occasions since the Syrian refugee crisis escalated that our screening process has significant weaknesses that have been exploited in the past. In September, the Director of National Intelligence said that he is concerned about ISIS operatives using the refugee program to infiltrate our country. Last month, FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Judiciary Committee that “a number of people who were of serious concern” have entered the United States through refugee status. He said that Syrian refugees will be more difficult to vet because the U.S. does not have its own information and intelligence with which to conduct the necessary background investigations.
Given that our screening process is not nearly as effective as it should be, it is imperative that we stop the intake of Syrian refugees at this time. The SAFE Act, which passed the House with significant bipartisan support, pauses resettlements until such time that comprehensive background checks can be completed on all Syrian refugees seeking admittance into the United States. While we cannot justify the risks of admitting Syrian refugees without proper screening, we must maintain our ongoing commitment to provide humanitarian aid to innocent Syrians where we can and seek to assist them in seeking refuge in places closer to their homeland.
The Syrian refugee situation is but one facet of a much larger problem – the failure to degrade and destroy ISIS. Despite claiming that ISIS has been “contained,” the President’s supposed strategy to defeat ISIS has clearly been unsuccessful. ISIS has continued to grow and expand its reign of evil in part because America has failed to effectively take the lead on the world’s stage to deter this precarious group of individuals.
It is incumbent upon the President to articulate a complete, thorough strategy to destroy ISIS because it is the Commander-in-Chief’s responsibility alone to set forth to Congress and to the American people a comprehensive strategy for achieving this critical goal. Likewise, it is the obligation of the Congress to take up and debate the President’s proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force.
It is my fervent hope this Administration will swiftly develop a strategy to defeat ISIS that the American people may thoughtfully and expeditiously consider. The American people and their representatives in Congress must be afforded the opportunity to participate in an honest and candid debate as to exactly what action will be necessary and exactly what will ultimately be required of the American people and of our brave men and women in uniform if we embark on a course of military action.
I remain steadfastly committed to do everything within my power to protect the American people from those who seek to harm us.
If you need any additional information or if we may be of assistance to you, please visit my website at hurt.house.gov or call my Washington office: (202) 225-4711, Charlottesville office: (434) 973-9631, Danville office: (434) 791-2596, or Farmville office: (434) 395-0120.
Robert Hurt represents the Fifth District of Virginia in Congress.