Virginia's congressional representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill strengthening measures for refugees from Syria and Iraq attempting to enter the US.
All eight of the Republican members of the House of Representatives voted for the bill, as did Democrat Gerry Connolly. Only Democrats Bobby Scott and Don Beyer voted against the bill.
All but two Republicans in the House voted for the measure and 47 Democrats joined them to pass the bill 289-137. The margin exceeds the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto.
"This bill puts a hold on refugee resettlement in the U.S. and increases the standards of the screening process so that we can make sure we’re meeting our first priority: protecting American lives," wrote Rep. Rob Wittman in a statement. "We are fighting a battle that pits liberty and equality against oppression and fear, and that is a battle we cannot afford to lose. ISIS must be destroyed.”
The bill calls for the FBI to conduct background checks on Syrian and Iraqi refugees before they enter the country. The heads of the FBI, Homeland Security and the director of national intelligence would also have to certify to Congress each refugee is not a security threat. The enhanced measures are on top of the current screening process which includes interviews, fingerprints and crosschecks of databases and takes 18-24 months. Syrians currently must also be screen using data from the U.N. Refugee Agency and interviewed by Homeland Security officials.
“Denying refuge to women and children, survivors of violence and torture, and those with severe medical conditions by adding untenable requirements to an already rigorous vetting process, as H.R. 4038 would do, we would be doing nothing to address the threat posed by ISIL and would likely only be playing into their hands," Rep. Bobby Scott said in a statement. "This is an international humanitarian crisis and the United States has a moral obligation to step up and help, as we have done time and time again.”
The Senate has not scheduled debate on the issue, yet.
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