In response to the escalating conflict in the Middle East, thousands of refugees have fled the violence, terrorism and oppression directed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS). Without question, this flood of refugees into Europe and their potential resettlement into the United States calls for compassion, but our handling of the crisis also demands that we exercise serious caution.
Certainly, I believe that most Syrian and Iraqi refugees are seeking to escape ISIL’s extreme jihadism and senseless violence. However, I remain concerned about the safety of American citizens if these refugees are accepted in large numbers under the current screening and surveillance system. As we learned after ISIL’s attacks in Paris, the organization will clearly use whatever means necessary to spread its influence — even having its fighters pose as refugees. Unfortunately, I fully expect ISIL will continue to use the refugee crisis to send out terrorists, infiltrate Western nations and pick up recruits to spread more violence around the world.
When opening America’s doors to refugees, we need to ensure that ISIL loyalists don’t come along with those legitimately fleeing war and persecution. Before resettling any individuals in search of safe haven, we must prioritize the security of American citizens. And those responsible for the safety of the American people must be willing to say they are confident that refugees pose no threat to our county’s citizens.
Recently, in response to the increasing influence of ISIL and the terrorist organization’s suspected exploitation of refugees, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act. While this legislation halts admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States, it’s important to understand that the SAFE Act wouldn’t prevent these individuals from eventually seeking refuge in our country. Instead, it simply requires that improvements be made to the vetting process before taking refugees in, which includes greater scrutiny during background checks and requires top U.S. security officials to independently verify that any individual resettled in our country poses no security threat to America. I believe that these higher standards for vetting are the responsible and appropriate thing to do, and it rightly reassures the American people that our compassion will not be wrongly extended to persons who thirst for violence and aim to destroy us.
Fortunately, acceptance of refugees is not the only way to show American compassion or, considering geographical distance alone, even the best way. In fact, we are already extending a helping hand through humanitarian aid both public and private, and I certainly expect the same generosity to continue in the future.
However, we should always remember that the refugee crisis isn’t going away. In order to stop the flood of refugees from the Middle East, ISIL must first be contained and ultimately defeated. Unfortunately, as long as this terrorist organization is allowed to gain ground in Iraq, Syria and other surrounding countries, refugees will be forced to leave their homes and flee to neighboring countries, Europe and North America.
I believe that the best long-term assistance we can provide is in demonstrating strength in our resolve to destroy this despicable enemy responsible for the atrocities against humanity. Having seen what ISIL is capable of, I hope that President Obama will recognize the fact that his so-called strategy isn’t working. In order to protect ISIL’s innocent victims abroad and our own citizens at home, we must waste no time in destroying this vicious enemy.