Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Terror threat demands refugee vetting

December 1, 2015
Op-Ed


 

Terror threat demands refugee vetting
By Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas)  11/30/2015

America is a compassionate nation. We are primarily a nation of immigrants who come here seeking the American dream. We have given people the chance at a better life thanks to a government that prizes liberty over control.

We have been blessed by geography that shields us from many of the global conflicts that are impacting Europe and the Middle East. The obvious exception was the 9/11 al Qaeda terror attacks when almost 3,000 Americans were murdered. That attack was the beginning of Americans living under a higher risk for direct attacks. Terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS work feverishly to penetrate our defenses and hit our homeland again.

America exists today under a veil of hostility by extremists in the world who hate the very things we stand for - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The recent Paris attacks were a powerful reminder of what our enemy is capable of. This is not a time for reluctance on the part of our leaders. America and our allies must come together with one voice and say no to those seeking to harm and invoke terror in the hearts of our citizens and the world.

The crisis in Syria has become a global problem with more than four million Syrians fleeing their homeland in search of a safe haven. They are flocking to Europe and trying to come here for help as well. Make no mistake, ISIS views this as a prime opportunity to infiltrate these refugees and use our compassion and generosity against us. That is why we must reassess our current process for accepting refugees to strengthen the vetting process to ensure that those who come to America are truly in need of our help, and not people seeking to destroy our nation.  

President Obama continues to minimize the threats we face and committed to bringing up to 10,000 refugees into the United States in the next year. While that is a small number when compared to the total number of refugees, it is critical that before we open our doors, we ensure the safety and security of all Americans.

The rise of ISIS and their terror in Paris demands that we change the Syrian and Iraq refugee program with a new, enhanced screening process that balances America’s compassion with our sacred duty to protect our citizens. Last week, the House passed a bipartisan, veto-proof bill to put the current program on hold until we can strengthen the screening process for those seeking asylum here. One component that rightfully raises red flags for our security experts is a lack of information on many of these Syrian refugees. Under our bill, the FBI cannot approve new Syrian refugees until it has revamped the security-check process to meet the new requirements.

The bill requires the FBI to certify that the applicant has been put through a thorough background check to determine whether he or she is a threat. Then the Department of Homeland Security secretary, in conjunction with the FBI and Director of National Intelligence – must certify to Congress that the applicant is not a threat to the United States. The Senate should pass this bill as soon as possible and give the president the tools necessary to protect the homeland.

The American experiment has succeeded for hundreds of years and represents a beacon of hope for many across the globe living under the boot of oppression. The only way we can continue to provide that liberty is to protect the wellbeing of the people working to preserve it.  As President Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”