A video excerpt from an October 21st House Homeland Security Committee hearing reveals exactly why Texas Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) is calling for “a screeching halt” to Syrian resettlement in the country. He and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) are sponsoring a bill which would give governors the ability to protect their states by refusing to accept Syrian refugees.
During the hearing on “Worldwide Threats and Homeland Security Challenges,” Rep. Smith asked FBI Director James B. Comey, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson, and Nicholas J. Rasmussen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, about the security risk that Syrian refugees pose to Americans. This was of course before the terrorist attacks upon Paris, France, on November 13. Rep. Smith has released the following 3-minute video highlighting their exchange:
Smith who represents Texas’ 21st congressional district, voiced his grave concerns during the hearing that the federal government has no ability to adequately screen Syrians and others who want to come into our country.
As can be seen from the video, these federal administration leaders did nothing to dispel the Texas congressman’s concerns.
Smith asked the federal directors whether terrorists would be likely to use available federal programs to gain access to this country in order to commit terrorist acts.
The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center answered, “We have certainly seen terrorist groups talk about, think about, exactly what you are describing, Mr. Smith. Trying to use available programs to get people not only into the United States, but into western European countries as well. So we know that they aspire to do that.” He said he did not know if he could say that they would likely succeed.
Smith asked about the vetting process and noted that terrorist organizations would most likely have individuals come into the country who have not yet committed a crime or had “a public background,” or committed a terrorist act.
DHS Secretary Johnson answered the vetting question by saying that every alleged refugee is interviewed, and that they complete an application. Smith responded saying that you are then essentially relying upon the refugee who is filling out the application, and “you can’t go beyond that, so you are sorta having to take their word for it.”
During the hearing, Rep. Smith said another “red flag” was that the profile of these Syrian refugees does not meet the profile of the typical refugee family. He said these Syrian refugees are “young, single, males, as opposed to family members.”
DHS Secretary Johnson skirted Rep. Smith’s question by saying these men are embraced by people in their community. Johnson continued that he had seen the communities firsthand and “they tend to settle into communities that are very … that embrace them, that are very supportive,” and added these communities tend to be a “pretty tight-knit, supportive, community.”
Smith responded, “As I say, both the profile and the motive of terrorist organizations, and your admission that there is some risk involved, to me would persuade the administration to go slow, rather than fast, when it comes to admitting individuals who might do us harm.”
Smith added that both FBI Director Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Johnson admitted they do not currently have the ability to properly screen and conduct sufficient background checks on these refugees.
In a House Judiciary Committee hearing later the same week, Director Comey admitted that determining which refugees could pose a threat would be “challenging.”
In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, the Texas congressional representative said, “Yet the president continues to insist we bring Syrian refugees to the United States.” He added, “We know that at least one of the ISIS attackers immigrated to France in recent weeks as part of their refugee program.” The terrorist group has also said it will try to infiltrate the U.S. using the refugee program.
Smith concluded, “At a time when we are on high alert, all plans for relocating Syrian refugees should come to a screeching halt. We should not allow Syrian refugees into our country until this administration can guarantee that they pose no danger to the American people.”
On Tuesday, Rep. Smith joined as a cosponsor, Texas Congressman Ted Poe, in a bill which would give governors the ability to protect their states by refusing to accept Syrian refugees. The bill, H.R.4032, is entitled “The States’ Right of Refugee Refusal Act.”
In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, Smith said, “We are not going to simply sit back and allow this administration to endanger American lives in the face of the attacks in Paris. Congress should defund and halt the relocation of Syrian refugees to the U.S.”
Rep. Smith told Breitbart Texas, “The president’s insistence that we move forward with his refugee plans is irresponsible, tone-deaf to the reality of security threats and out-of-touch with the American people.”
The bill will amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to ensure that States have the right to refuse to participate in the Refugee Resettlement program where a Governor chooses to opt out. At this time, the Act permits consultation with the States but it does not clearly give the States the right to refuse.
Rep. Smith said he will continue to raise concerns and highlight security issues surrounding Syrian refugee resettlement at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday.
He is also joining with several dozen other Republicans in a letter to President Obama led by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) demanding that all Syrian refugee transfers be halted. The letter is still gathering support and will be sent out later this week, his office said.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2