COLUMN: Terror Attacks Demand Response that Keeps Americans Safe

November 23, 2015
Weekly Column and Op-Ed
By Rep. Dan Newhouse

The world was horrified by the cowardly terror attacks in Paris that killed numerous innocent people and left many wounded at entertainment venues and restaurants, in what many now regard as France’s “September 11th.” France is the United States’ oldest ally—the first nation to support our fight for independence. As France has been there when we have faced challenges, we must now be there for the French people. While we mourn together now, we must also unite and stand against global terrorism. Sadly, the incidents of terrorism only continue to grow. In Beirut, suicide bomber attacks took the lives of more than 40 people, injuring hundreds more. In Mali, terrorist held a hotel hostage and killed dozens of individuals. Together with our allies, we must defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al Qaeda. Terrorists must be denied a safe haven, whether in Syria, Iraq, or other parts of the globe from which to plot attacks. The terrorists responsible for these recent attacks must be brought to justice for these horrendous acts, ensuring we remain defenders of liberty.

On the home front, there are additional ways to ensure the security of Americans that are also consistent with our values as a compassionate nation. Last week, in an overwhelming bipartisan vote last week of 289-137, the House of Representatives passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015, despite a veto threat by President Obama. I am encouraged by the bipartisan, veto-proof majority, support for this measure, which shows that the House is willing to take common sense steps to protect Americans. This legislation requires that potential refugees from Syria and Iraq are given the highest level of scrutiny before they can enter the U.S. The bill pauses the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees until nation’s top security officials take responsibility to certify they have no ties to terrorism and pose no threat to Americans.

The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper has raised concerns about the prospect that ISIL plans to take advantage of asylum policies to infiltrate the West.  He stated, “We don’t obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees…That is a huge concern of ours.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Counterterrorism Center, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have also raised similar concerns about the ability to screen refugees.

In light of recent attacks that show ISIL’s determination and capacity to strike so-called “soft targets” abroad, lawmakers have the duty and obligation to act in the interests of our national security and protect Americans. The President’s comments just before the attacks, that ISIL was geographically “contained” appear to show a tragic misunderstanding and attempt to downplay of the threat we face by ISIL and radical Islamic terrorism. Thus far, the Obama Administration has clearly failed to develop a viable strategy to defeat ISIL.

America has long been a welcoming nation. Washington alone has taken in more than 130,000 refugees from more than 70 nations since 1975. While the U.S. allows a safe harbor for the most vulnerable, we must ensure the safety of Americans remains our top priority.