New York, NY – (TFC) — H.R. 4038 was a bill passed by the U.S. House on Thursday with an overwhelming 289-137 vote that would potentially force Syrian refugees to undergo a stricter, and nearly impossible, background check.
According to the UNHCR data, there are currently over 4.2 million refugees accounted for from the region. So far, about 2,300 Syrian refugees have entered the U.S. and the Obama administration plans to resettle a total of 10,000.
The journey is wrought with difficulty and fear. Syrian refugees are forced to leave home and arrive at a UNHCR refugee camp where each displaced person must register as a refugee and are given the bare minimum of living conditions. They are allowed to express interest in which country they would like to resettle in but the decision is entirely up to the UNHCR’s discretion. When a recommendation is made for the U.S., The State Department and the Department of Homeland Security decide whether the application will be approved and each application takes about 18-24 months to process in its current state. In-person interviews are taken repeatedly, individually and with family members, while information and documentation is taken from the refugees to cross check multiple times between federal departments. If approved, the refugee individual or family will be sent to their new location. With the supplemental processing this new bill requires, it will make it nearly impossible for refugees to enter the United States.
If H.R. 4038 is fully passed, they would only able to enter the United States if the Director of Federal Bureau of Investigations, Secretary of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence each provide their personal certification to the appropriate congressional committees that the refugee will not be a threat to the United States. The “appropriate congressional committee” apparently refers to the following entities:
(A) the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate;
(B) the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate;
(C) the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate;
(D) the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs of the Senate;
(E) the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate;
(F) the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate;
(G) the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives;
(H) the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives;
(I) the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives;
(J) the Committee on Homeland Security of the House of Representatives;
(K) the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives; and
(L) the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives.
In other words, three key individuals would have to process about 8,000 applications, and then certify each applicant to the abovementioned list of congressional committees. This process that originally took 18-24 months would most likely double. Clearly this would further delay the already incredibly arduous application process the refugees must undergo to escape their hellish realities.
Reported by CNN, FBI Director James Comey has expressed his concern over the bill and it’s micro-management of the Syrian refugees. Comey has apparently told the “administration and congressional officials that the legislation would make it impossible to allow any refugees into the U.S.”
The refugees face racism and bigotry throughout the entire application process, consistently under suspicion of terrorist activity by governmental officials. Even after they are resettled, they are attacked viciously, perceiving all refugees to be Muslims and potential terrorists.
With anti-Muslim sentiment rampant in the U.S., this supplemental application process will slow, if not stop, entry for the refugees into the country. There have been suggestions by republicans that the U.S. should consider taking in only Christians, completely forgetting that the United States is perceived as a country of freedoms, particularly religious freedom.
The bill goes to the Senate next and it is unclear when this will take place. Hopefully, they will follow President Obama’s lead and vote against the bill that promotes bigotry.