Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. should not “slam the door” on Syrian refugees in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in Paris.
ISIS has taken credit for the attack, which claimed the lives of 129 people. Many congressional Republicans have called for a pause to the Syrian refugee program.
“The first obligation of the government is to keep people safe and we should take the time and the steps necessary to ensure that program doesn’t endanger the American people, but I also have to say this: I want to make sure that if there is a Syrian mother who is trying to protect her child from radical indoctrination or from torture by ISIS we shouldn’t just slam the door on that person,” Israel told PJM at the National Press Club Book Fair, where he was promoting his novel The Global War on Morris.
“We should make common-sense exceptions. I really believe we are able to do both – keep ourselves safe, which is our first obligation, but at the same time make common-sense objections on the basis of our humanitarian values.”
A bill passed Thursday in the House to implement enhanced security screening to the refugee application process. Under the bill, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and director of National Intelligence would have certify each refugee is not a threat to national security prior to their admission to the United States.
According to USCIS, the U.S. government does not charge any application fees to refugees. However, USCIS charges fees for visas and green cards status applications. For example, the fee for eligible immigrants to apply for a green card is $985 plus an additional biometrics fee of $85 for immigrants between the ages of 14 and 78.
The federal government also provides a loan to refugees for travel to the United States and USCIS said refugees are “eligible for medical and cash assistance.”
Some have pointed out that the U.S. has other problems to address such as veteran homelessness, poverty and unemployment, so it should not be taking in a large number of refugees each year.
“We have to have priorities – that’s what government is – government is about deciding who gets what and when, but at the same time when you have a humanitarian crisis it is in our national interest and frankly in our long-term economic interest to respond with humanitarian values, at the same time extenuating the safety and the protection of the American people,” Israel said. “We’ve always managed to do both things and we’re going to have to do both things again.”
When asked if someone affiliated with a terrorist group could infiltrate the current refugee process, Israel said, “Look, there’s always the possibility at every country at any time that somebody is going to slip through the cracks, so you have to do everything possible in order to just protect yourself from that. And that’s what I think our first obligation is.”