How MN reps voted on US House bill to halt Syrian refugee access


The U.S. House voted on Thursday to restrict the entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees to the United States until stricter security measures are put in place, a move made in response to the Paris terror attacks.

The bill, which you can read here, passed the House by a vote of 289-137 and will now go to the Senate.

It calls for the FBI to conduct additional background checks on refugees fleeing oppression in Syria and Iraq, whose admission to the United States must then be ratified by the Department of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI, which must confirm "he or she is not a threat."

Some 47 Democrats (there are 188 total in the House) voted for the bill even though President Barack Obama has vowed to veto it if it gets to his desk, CNN reports, signifying the President is "increasingly isolated" in his position on refugees in light of the Islamic State-backed attacks on Paris last Friday.

Three of Minnesota's Democrats are among those who defied the president – Reps. Tim Walz, Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan voted in favor of the bill, believing the current security measures are not adequate. Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen, John Kline and Tom Emmer also voted in favor of the bill.

Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum was the only one of Minnesota's U.S. lawmakers to vote against the measure. (Rep. Keith Ellison did not vote.)

It follows concerns raised in Europe that terrorists could be entering the continent alongside refugees fleeing the Middle East, prompting countries to tighten their borders since the Paris attacks that left 130 dead.

However, the International Business Times reported on Thursday that all nine terrorists identified so far as being involved in the attacks were European nationals, and are not thought to have entered the continent as part of refugee groups.

The refugee debate in the U.S.

The BBC reports the Obama administration announced in September it wanted to resettle around 10,000 Syrian refugees, fleeing civil war and conflict with the Islamic State, in the United States.

The vote has proved divisive, with the Huffington Post reporting the existing checks on Middle Eastern refugees are already "intensive," with an 18-24 month process that includes biometric and biographic tests, fingerprinting, interviews and other vetting procedures by U.S. security agencies.

Security sources also told the website there has been much misinformation about America's vetting procedures spread by some politicians, such as the claim that the U.S. leaves all refugee vetting to the United Nations.

NPR reports however the Syrian government does not cooperate with the United States, and that makes it difficult to verify some documents.

But the Obama administration says refugees still provide an extensive amount of information during the process, and said the bill would mean "unnecessary and impractical requirements that would unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world."

Even though the President has threatened to veto the bill, CNN notes that with 289 representatives voting for it, this leaves the House just one vote short of a majority that could override the veto.

State governors have also weighed in, with more than two dozen saying they will not allow Syrian refugees into their states, or are against it. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton was not among them, saying he wouldn't refuse refugees as he's been assured the vetting process is thorough.

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