House Votes to Increase Security Checks for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees Amid Paris Attacks


Last week, in a 289-137 vote the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bill that would require a comprehensive background check to be conducted for every Syrian and Iraqi seeking refugee admission to the United States. Among its provisions, the bill, better known as the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015 (American SAFE Act of 2015) will require supplemental certifications and background investigations to be conducted before a Syrian or Iraqi refugee can be admitted to the United States. These additional security protocols will require multiple federal government agencies to work together in order to determine whether 1) such an alien poses a threat to the national security of the United States and 2) whether it is in the public interest of the United States to admit the alien based on the findings of the security checks conducted. The bill received overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans alike amid the recent terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS leaving 129 dead and 353 wounded in the city of Paris. Though the bill will need to pass through the Senate before it can become law, the House’s overwhelming support for the bill has blocked the President from using his veto power.

Specifically, the bill will apply only to Syrian and Iraqi nationals referred to in the bill as ‘covered aliens.’ A covered alien means any alien applying for admission to the United States who is either a) a national or resident of Iraq or Syria b) has no nationality but whose country of last habitual residence is Iraq or Syria c) has been present in Iraq or Syria at anytime on or after March 1, 2011.

According to the bill introduced by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and Congressman Richard Hudson, Syrian and Iraqi aliens seeking admittance to the United States as refugees may not be admitted until:

1) The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation certifies that a background investigation has been conducted of each refugee, that is sufficient to determine whether the alien is a threat to U.S. national security;
2) The Secretary of Homeland Security, along with the FBI Director and Director of National Intelligence must report to Congress certifying that each refugee does not pose a security threat to the United States;

Additionally, the bill introduces additional safeguards to ensure accountability of government officials, compliance, and to instill good governance practices:

3) The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland security must oversee refugee approvals to ensure safety and compliance protocols;
4) The Secretary of Homeland Security must provide a monthly report to members of Congress monitoring the number of applications for refugee admissions for these aliens, and the number of certifications conducted/waiting to be conducted.

For more information on the refugee application process and any other questions please contact us.