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Congressman Dan Donovan

Representing the 11th District of New York

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Rep. Dan Donovan blasts de Blasio, Obama over Syrian refugee plan

November 19, 2015
In The News

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Rep. Daniel Donovan joined Republicans and dozens of Democrats in the House Thursday in passing a veto-proof bill to halt the president's plan to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees until federal agencies increase security measures and ensure that no jihadists enter.

Donovan criticized President Obama and Mayor Bill de Blasio for trivializing GOP concerns over possible security threats and alleged they are politicizing the issue.

The House bill passed 289-137 with 47 Democrats joining Republicans to ignore Obama's vow to veto the bill.

It requires that additional security measures be taken before refugees are allowed in.

The Senate must still vote on its version of the bill, something that is not expected until after a weeklong Thanksgiving break.

After the Nov. 13 ISIS-led terrorist attacks in France that killed 129 people, many have been fearful that resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. could open the door to attacks on American soil.

The House bill requires the FBI director to certify the background investigation of each refugee and requires the Homeland Security secretary, FBI director, and director of national intelligence to certify to Congress that each refugee is not a security threat. It also requires the Department of Homeland Security inspector general to independently assess all refugee approvals.

In a phone interview from Washington D.C. Thursday, the congressman acknowledged that there's no way for federal agencies to meet those requirements right now because of a lack of databases from which to check Syrian backgrounds.

Currently, the DHS pre-screens refugees, holds in-person interviews and takes fingerprints, a process the Obama administration has said could take up to two years.

While the White House has argued the House-proposed security requirements are too onerous and don't provide any meaningful security, Donovan argued that the FBI and DHS have said they can't promise the vetting system in place now can prevent terrorists form slipping through the cracks.

"ISIS has told us that they're going to exploit the refugee program and use it as a vehicle to get their jihadists in," Donovan said.  "Our country is a compassionate nation ... but what we are doing is government's number one responsibility to its citizens: protecting it from harm."

Obama has chided Republicans, both in an out of Congress, saying they're afraid of innocent Syrian children.

With only four Syrian refugees in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday said he would welcome more, and during an unrelated press conference Wednesday, held the now infamous photo of a 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body was carried off a Turkish beach after drowning.

Donovan criticized the president and mayor for oversimplifying the situation and implying that Republicans are blocking the entry of innocent victims of civil war.

"They're politicizing a very dangerous situation," Donovan said. "Nobody's going to separate a 3-year-old child from its mother. Yesterday a woman blew herself up" in France during a raid to capture those responsible for the Paris attacks.

"There's no profile — it's not a 27-year-old loner male," Donovan said.

De Blasio said in a statement, "I am satisfied that we are ready to support victims of one of the worst humanitarian crises of our generation — that is the right thing to do morally; that it is consistent with New York City's values; and that it can be done safely, but it will take time and it will be a very, very deliberative process."

Acknowledging the desire to help refugees, Donovan suggested they "get them out of harm's way but keep them in the region" in countries like Turkey and Lebanon.

"The mayor and the president's number one concern should be the safety of the citizens," Donovan said. "We're a compassionate city, we're a city of immigrants. We're also the number one terrorist target in the world."