Senators speaking out

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Alabama’s senators joined the outcry over President Obama’s Syrian refugee program, moving on Tuesday to revoke funding.

U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) issued a joint statement calling for Congress to revoke the “blank check” for the president’s refugee plans.

“As Chairmen of Subcommittees on both the Appropriations and Judiciary Committees, we believe it is essential that any government funding bill cancel the President’s blank check for refugee resettlement.  Long before the barbaric attacks in Paris, government officials and investigators have stated that we do not have the capacity to effectively screen Syrian refugees.  The bloody assaults on the streets of France add new urgency to an already dangerous situation,” they said in their statement.

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The funding proposal before Congress would authorize the president’s plan to bring in 85,000 refugees, in addition to the annual immigration flow, and would allow for unlimited money to be spent on their lifetime welfare and benefits. According to reports, Catholic Social Services has agreed to house 100 refugees in Alabama.

However, Gov. Robert Bentley on Tuesday joined other governors who are opposed to re-settling Syrian refugees in a conference call with the White House. Two days ago, Bentley became the first governor to announce he would oppose re-settling Syrian refugees in Alabama due to the risk of terrorists hiding among them. By the end of the day Monday, 26 other governors had echoed his comments. While the re-settling of immigrants is a federal law issue, funding for programs assisting those refugees would require state cooperation, which the governors could delay or halt.

Meanwhile, Sessions and Shelby seek to halt federal funding for any re-settlement efforts.

“Right now, our refugee program – like all of our visa programs – runs on autopilot.  Each year, millions of visas go out the door without any input or action from Congress.  We would not accept this policy for the federal budget, and we should not accept it for immigration.  We therefore urge the inclusion of a provision in any omnibus spending bill that makes it absolutely clear that no refugee resettlement will take place without a separate, affirmative

Congressional vote to authorize any resettlement and offset its huge costs,” their statement says.

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement would provide funding for the president’s plan, and the senators want to withhold appropriations in the omnibus funding bill.

“Our immigration and refugee polices must serve the interests of our nation and protect the security of the American people,” the statement says. “After admitting 1.5 million migrants from Muslim countries on lifetime visas since 9/11, it is time to assist in relocating Muslim migrants within their home region rather than relocating large numbers to the United States.

“It simply cannot be our policy to encourage a mass migration of entire populations from their homelands, a strategy that will only further destabilize the region and bring threats of terrorism deep inside our shores.”

The debate on the fate of Syrian refugees comes as a reaction to news that some of the terrorists who planned and carried out the deadly attacks in Paris on Friday had come to France through the refugee resettlement program.