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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

House Bill Calls For Strict Regulations On Syrian And Iraqi Refugees

New House of Representatives legislation requires three background checks for incoming refugees in an effort to reduce threats to national security. 

In response to the Paris attacks, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that provides stricter screening measures for incoming refugees. The bill requires screenings by the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence to ensure the refugees do not pose a security risk. But experts say limiting entry for these vulnerable populations in desperate need of help might not be in the U.S.’ best interest. 

“ISIS' game plan right now is to divide the Muslim community from the larger community that surrounds it, to take away its support and create animosity toward Muslims,” said Robert McCaw, Government Affairs Manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). 

“It's is in ISIS' benefit for people to mistrust and abuse Syrian refugees as they are trying to foster discontent between Muslims and non-Muslims,” he said. 

This new bill is also a late hit on the Obama administration. It criticizes the push for a higher Syrian refugee quota and it also criticizes the Visa waiver system that has been in place for over 30 years, according to Director of USC Gould School of Law’s Immigration Clinic, Niels Frenzen. 

“It’s not something that can be laid at the feet of the Obama administration,” said Frenzen. “A significant part of the political focus also goes hand-in-hand with the poor political climate between Congress and the Obama administration.”

One of the attackers in Paris had carried a fake Syrian passport. McCaw said that using this experience to prohibit refugee entry is unwise and also un-American. 

“How are people using one fake passport to deny the rights of all Syrian refugees that would come to America? It's not American and it does not meet up to our ideals as a nation on refugees and immigrants,” he said. 

But even with the restrictions and layers of security in place, Frenzen said there isn’t a 100 percent guarantee that it will eradicate the threat. 

“If they don’t have a record and if there isn’t some intelligence report or fingerprint that’s been developed. If that person is quote-unquote clean skin, there’s no way we’ll be able to identify that person.”

Frenzen said that the only way to guarantee that people coming into the US will not pose a threat is to completely close the borders.

“That would be a draconian event, that would be harmful to us as a society,” he said.

Click here for an interactive look at the history of refugees in the 20th century. 

Click here for the radio story. 

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