The Obama administration just made it easier for supporters of terrorists to come into the U.S. as refugees. Now congressional Republicans are asking what in the world they were thinking.
The GOP lawmakers said they are taken aback by the administration’s move to place exemptions on a law that bans particular asylum-seekers and refugees who provide “limited material support” to terrorists.
The State Department and Department of Homeland Security published the new exemptions in the federal register on Wednesday. The exemptions limited the the restriction in the Immigration and Nationality Act that blocked out refugees and asylum seekers who had given even the most minimal of material support to terrorists.
“Saying we’re going to lower the level of security and allow people that are only minimal terrorist supporters just flies in the face of this country being at war. There’s been a war going on since ’79 of radical Islamists,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R – TX) told Breitbart News on Thursday. “We didn’t really understand until 2011 and now we’re regressing and saying we’re not really gonna be at war, we’re gonna continue to let people in that only hate us a little bit and not as much as maybe actually blowing up a building. It’s outrageous. We can’t do that,” he added.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R – CA), Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, called the administration’s actions “divisive” and “short-sighted,” telling Breitbart News, “This is one more example of a go-it-alone President bypassing a discussion with the American people after his lawyers concoct an opinion that his Administration has all the authority it needs. This mentality is arrogant, short-sighted, divisive, and among the reasons Americans have lost so much confidence in his Administration.”
Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson approved the exemptions. A DHS a official said they are “commonsense.”
“These exemptions cover five kinds of limited material support that have adversely and unfairly affected refugees and asylum seekers with no tangible connection to terrorism: material support that was insignificant in amount or provided incidentally in the course of everyday social, commercial, family or humanitarian interactions, or under significant pressure,” a DHS official told The Daily Caller.
As a result of the changes in the federal register by DHS and State Department, more Syrian refugees will be able to be admitted into the United States this year. Due to restrictions to keep terrorists out of the U.S. in the law at the time, only 31 Syrians were given admission last year after 135,000 applied.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said the Obama administration’s implementation of these exemptions “leaves one incredulous.”
70 percent of asylum applications contain “warning signs of fraud,” added Sessions, referring to research by Kenneth Palinkas, president of the National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council, a union representing 12,000 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers and staff.
“We also know that asylum-seekers at the southwest border have exploited a glaring enforcement loophole by simply asserting they face a ‘credible fear’ in their home countries. The frequent result is that those making the assertion, instead of being promptly removed or detained, are instead released into the U.S. pending a determination on their claims that may occur years into the future, and do not show up for the hearings,” Sessions said.
The Alabama Republican said he finds it “alarming” that the Obama administration would move unilaterally to loosen admissions standards for asylum-seekers and other potential applicants for admission into the country who may have connections to insurgent or terrorist groups. Sessions notes that some terrorist organizations have not even been designated as such yet, noting that “Al Qaeda was not designated by the Department of State as a foreign terrorist organization until 1999–long after the first attack on the World Trade Center.”