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American SAFE Act of 2015: Alabama House delegation unanimous in halting Obama's Syrian refugee plan

November 19, 2015

Alabama's House delegation was unanimous in voting to put plans for the U.S. to take in Iraqi and Syrian refugees on hold for at least two years on Thursday, helping the lower chamber reach a veto-proof majority against President Barack Obama. The legislation passed by a vote of 289-137.

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, who usually votes against the rest of the delegation's six Republican members on controversial policies, said in a statement that she wants a strong screening process for refugees. She said her vote doesn't mean she's closed to the idea of eventually admitting the asylum seekers.

"To be clear, the recent terrorist attacks [in Paris] should not cause us to live in a state of fear nor abandon our humanitarian values. While our nation's security remains the top priority, the displacement of millions of Iraqis and Syrians ravaged by the cruelties of war is an international crisis that demands we do our part," she said. "As Americans, it is against our shared value of human rights to do nothing for those seeking asylum. My support for this bill in no way diminishes my commitment to those shared values. However, I am convinced that our current refugee vetting process can be more effective. While the United States cannot turn our backs on refugees, we must have a more stringent screening process."

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, said he intends to vote against a related bill that defunds all of the president's refugee programs.

"I strongly oppose President Obama's reckless plan to allow thousands of refugees from Syria and regions controlled by ISIS into the U.S. ISIS is currently using the refugee crisis as a pipeline to move Islamic terrorists into Europe," he said in a statement. "Especially after the attacks in Paris, we cannot and will not risk our national security for the sake of misplaced compassion and allow this Islamic terrorist pipeline to reach the United States."

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, who introduced a bill Wednesday to defund Obama's proposal, also cited security concerns for his vote.

"Today's bill is just the start of a larger response to the Syrian refugee crisis. I will continue to push the House to pass my bill, which would defund the Syrian refugee resettlement program and ensure no Syrian refugees enter the United States," he said in a statement. "The national security of the American people must always be our top priority."

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said the bill "provides protection for the American people."

"It appears that the president opposes this bill because it is tough and establishes some tough criteria for any Syrian or Iraqi to be granted refugee status in our country," Aderholt said. "Some have asked why Congress would do something like this. We do not lock the doors of our homes at night because we hate the people outside but because we love the people within."

The other members of Alabama's congressional delegation who supported the bill were: Reps. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery; Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville; and Gary Palmer, R-Hoover.