McConnell Urges the Senate to Move Forward on the American SAFE Act
‘This bipartisan bill would allow Washington to…ensure it has the correct policies and security screenings in place before moving ahead with the refugee program for Iraq and Syria.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act:
“Our country has a proud record of admitting the oppressed as refugees to our shores.
“Yet, the debate about how to safely admit refugees from Syria and Iraq is a serious conversation that deserves a serious response from Washington.
“It’s difficult to effectively vet immigrants from a war-torn country where records may sometimes no longer exist.
“Senior law enforcement and intelligence officials have expressed concerns, and DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has said that ‘organizations such as ISIL might like to try to exploit this program.’
“Is it any wonder that the citizens we represent are concerned?
“According to one recent survey, nearly 80 percent of Americans — and 77 percent of Democrats — say that refugees should go through a more robust security process.
“President Obama seemed to suggest Americans like these are motivated by some animus toward ‘widows and orphans,’ I suggest they’re motivated by love for their families and communities.
“I would remind the President that this country has a proud tradition of compassion and we’ve resettled millions of refugees from around the world. Many Americans are telling us they want to continue helping others but they want to do it in a smarter and more secure way.
“I want to say this before moving forward.
“In his State of the Union address, President Obama decried the political divisions that have widened during his presidency. He called for ‘cooperation’ and a ‘more elevated debate.’ He warned that ‘democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter.’
“‘Democracy,’ he said, ‘doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice.’
“I ask him to reflect on those words.
“We each have a choice in this discussion.
“We can glibly dismiss the sincere concerns of middle-class families, or we can work to unify Americans by pursuing bipartisan and balanced solutions.
“Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives chose bipartisan and balanced solutions when they worked together to pass the American SAFE Act a few weeks ago.
“Democrats and Republicans in the Senate should choose bipartisan and balanced solutions by working together to advance the American SAFE Act today.
“This bipartisan bill would allow Washington to step back, take a breath, and ensure it has the correct policies and security screenings in place before moving ahead with the refugee program for Iraq and Syria.
“No wonder dozens of Democrats joined with Republicans to pass this balanced bill with a veto-proof majority in the House. It’s worrying to hear that Senate Democrats are now being pressured to block us from even debating it.
“I understand that the political pressure to oppose this balanced bill may be intense, but it’s also intensely short-sighted and I urge our Democratic friends to resist it.
“Boosting confidence in our nation’s vetting process is critical for our citizens just as it’s critical for every refugee who truly needs our help. Our Democratic friends know that a cloud of unfair stigmatization threatens to hang over legitimate refugees so long as Democrats block common-sense safeguards to weed out ISIL sympathizers.
“If our Democratic friends are serious in what they imply about promoting tolerance for ‘widows and orphans’ and in strengthening security for Americans, they won’t vote to block the Senate from debating balanced, bipartisan legislation that can advance both priorities simultaneously.
“Let’s work together to enact the American SAFE Act and its reforms, then let’s work together on the root of the problem.
“Refugees are fleeing Syria because of a brutal civil war and they’re fleeing Iraq because the terrorist group Al Qaeda in Iraq has evolved into the largest terrorist group in history, ISIL – so the ultimate solution is to make the region somewhere they can return to.
“Here’s what hasn’t helped.
“The precipitous withdrawal of our advice and assist force from Iraq.
“The indecision attached to drawing and erasing Red Lines in Syria.
“Mocking the genuine concerns of American citizens here at home…
“Here’s what will help.
“The Administration cooperating across the aisle to finally develop a serious plan to confront ISIL.
“That’s what the American people continue to call for.
“That’s what the American people deserve.
“And it’s what the Administration will pursue if it’s truly serious about helping both our country and the victims escaping this brutal terrorist group.”
Related Issues: ISIL, Immigration, Syria, National Security