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Congressman Dan Donovan

Representing the 11th District of New York

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Rep. Dan Donovan will vote to pause Obama's Syrian refugee plan

November 17, 2015
In The News

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- In light of last week's terrorist attacks in France, Rep. Daniel Donovan is joining his party in Congress in trying to press pause on President Obama's plan to let 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States while security protocols are vetted.

With 129 people killed in a string of ISIS deadly attacks in Paris on Friday, Republicans in the House of Representatives are hoping to prevent refugees from entering the country until they feel assured that doing so poses no security threat.

A Syrian passport was found near one of the terrorists in Paris, starting a movement to stop refugees from entering the United States, for fear that members of ISIS may be among them.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) announced on Tuesday that the House is expected to vote on a bill sometime this week that would pause the president's plan until they are assured terrorists won't infiltrate the masses.

In an statement Tuesday, Donovan backed the Republican proposal, calling American security "our top priority."

"The world changed on Nov. 13" when Paris was attacked, the congressman said. "We must not be naïve about the risk of radical Islamic terror in the United States. American security must be our top priority. I ask that the speaker bring this legislation to the floor as expeditiously as possible. In light of the Paris attacks, there can be no further delay."

The bill, The Refugee Resettlement Oversight and Security Act, would have the Government Accountability Office review potential security gaps in the current refugee screening process.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, authored the bill in September, well before the ISIS attacks in Paris.

The bill would require congressional approval before any refugees are admitted to the United States and would allow Congress to block the president's refugee plan if they find it inadequate. It would also require the Obama administration to prioritize resettling oppressed religious minorities among the Syrian refugees.

"America has always been a compassionate nation, but our country's security comes first," Donovan said. "The solution to the refugee crisis lies in ridding the world of ISIS and its followers – no refugee program will solve that."

Currently, the Homeland Security Department, State Department and Health and Human Services Department work together to resettle refugees.

The United Nations and U.S. embassies refer refugee cases for resettlement consideration, and the Homeland Security Department conducts individual interviews and determines admission.

The State Department's Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration works with nine national voluntary agencies to place refugees, prioritizing low-cost living areas.

Refugees are met by local affiliates and helped with housing, and given other resources, like short-term cash and medical assistance, English as a second language classes and employment training.

While Congress considers the moratorium bill, 28 state governors are trying to block refugees from entering their states should the president's plan proceed and allow 10,000 refugees in the country.

It's unclear whether the governors have the power to do so, as the refugees are allowed to move freely about the country, just like any other resident.

According to the New York Times, the State Department has not reached a conclusion about whether states could legally refuse admission.

However, governors could withhold aide, refuse to coordinate with local nonprofits and federal agencies and make their state an uncomfortable and unwelcome place for refugees to settle in.

Speaking after an event at Harvard University Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a balance is needed when addressing the refugee crisis.

He called governors pledging to shut their state borders "a pure political statement."

He added, "It's up to the federal government. If the federal government lets refugees in and places them in your state, the governor has no authority to turn them down."

Cuomo continued, " At the same time, this federal government has to make sure it's doing the screening and the people who are coming in are safe."