Walz breaks with Obama on refugee screening, backs tighter restrictions
Congressman Tim Walz, a Democrat representing Minnesota's 1st District, has voted in favor of a bill that would tighten the screening process for Syrian and Iraqi refugees trying to enter the U.S.
The bill passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 289 to 137. Walz and 46 other Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the measure — drawn up in response to last week's terror attacks in Paris.
In a statement released by his office, Walz said he supported the legislation because "it adds important safeguards to ensure additional security."
"Over the past several days, I have met with experts, studied the issue and solicited the opinions of southern Minnesotans," said Walz. "The message from southern Minnesota has been very clear: our care and compassion for those fleeing terror is absolute, but we have to find a way to ensure that we keep Americans safe from harm."
The Washington Post reports the bill would require the nation's top three intelligence officials to certify that refugees coming from Iraq and Syria are not security threats.
The Senate is expected to take the bill up after Thanksgiving. Pres. Barack Obama has already vowed to veto the legislation, arguing that it is unrealistic and harmful to American interests at home and overseas.
Following a meeting on Thursday with Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new prime minister, the president said refugees were already subjected to “the most rigorous vetting process that we have for anybody who is admitted."
“That somehow they pose a more significant threat than all the tourists who pour into the United States every single day just doesn’t jibe with reality,” he said, according to a report from the New York Times.
The White House announced a plan in September to take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year, a number human rights advocates say is too low. By comparison, Germany, a country with a quarter of America's population, has agreed to take in at least 500,000 asylum seekers in the same period, many of them from Syria.
A family of seven now living in Rochester is believed to be among the first Syrian refugees to have relocated to Minnesota since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War. The family, a couple with five young children, fled the violence in 2012.
"We were afraid to lose our lives. We did not take anything with us because I believed that we would eventually return at some point," the father, Mohammad Al-Obein, told the Pioneer Press in September. "That now is not to be."