Thursday 22 August 2019

US politicians vote to 'effectively' ban Syrian refugees from coming to America

Barack Obama had urged politicians not to forget the US tradition of welcoming refugees
Barack Obama had urged politicians not to forget the US tradition of welcoming refugees

Ruth Sherlock

The US Congress has voted overwhelmingly to approve a bill effectively blocking any refugee fleeing war in Syria or Iraq from being resettled in the United States.

In a stinging rebuke to President Barack Obama, dozens of Democrats joined a near unanimous decision by Republicans to pass a bill that requires the directors of the FBI and national intelligence to personally approve the permission for each refugee allowed into the country.

The White House, who dispatched representatives to congress to lobby Democrats hours before the bill, had promised to veto the measure saying it "would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world."  

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But the size of the majority vote on Thursday, which included 47 Democrats, means the bill cannot be immediately killed on the president's desk, setting the scene for a political dogfight in Washington.

In the wake of the Paris suicide attacks, Republican presidential candidates and congressional leaders have warned that extremists intent on wreaking havoc in the US could sneak into the pool of Syrian refugees allowed into the country if the resettlement program was not halted.

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This is based on little to no evidence, with officials in charge of current vetting procedures unable to cite cases where a Syrian posing as a refugee was caught entering the country with malicious intent.

Nonetheless, taking up the rallying cry of American national security 31 governors - all but one of them Republican - said they would seek to stop refugees from being settled in their states..

These include Texas, Arizona and Michigan, a state that had until recently welcomed one of the biggest number of resettled Syrians.

Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011 but the Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed entry next year.   

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The political rhetoric in the US against Syrian refugees has ramped up after it was announced that one of the Paris attackers may have entered Europe through Greece posing as a Syrian refugee.

A Bloomberg poll this week however showed that 53 pc of American adults do not want Syrian refugees resettled in the US, and that fewer than one third support Mr Obama's resettlement plan.

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Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front runner joined President Obama in condemning the domestic response to the Paris attacks, saying that this was not the time to score "political points".

"Many of these refugees are fleeing the same terrorists as us," Mrs Clinton told a crowd of supporters in New York.

"It would be a cruel irony if Isis forced these people from their homes, and then forced up to slam the door shut.

“We can get this right. America’s free, open society – described by some as a threat - I see as one of our strengths," she said.

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