Grassley Floor Statement on Paris Attacks and Syrian Refugees
Prepared Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On Paris Attacks and Syrian Refugees
Monday, November 16, 2015
Mr. President, I want to express my deepest sympathies to the people of Paris and all those affected by Friday’s terrible attacks by Islamic extremists. As we all know, hundreds of innocent people were killed or injured in the attacks, including at least one American citizen. No one should face such horrific violence when attending soccer games or concerts, or simply carrying on their daily lives. On behalf of Iowans, I stand with the people of France. I offer our support in recovering from and responding to these attacks.
Unfortunately, there is fear that similar attacks could soon take place on U.S. soil. There is even a video ISIS released earlier today threatening to attack America. Moreover, if we follow the administration’s announced plans to bring in thousands of new Syrian refugees, we could very well be letting in similar extremists who want to harm Americans. That is because it appears that at least one of the ISIS terrorists in Paris had recently registered as a Syrian refugee in Greece. Until last Friday, he appeared to all the world to be no different from any of the other thousands of people fleeing the chaos in Syria. But this could happen here too.
The number one responsibility of the U.S. federal government is to protect the homeland and to secure the country against all threats. We must do all we can to prevent a Paris-style attack from happening here.
But under the administration’s proposed plan, we may not be able to stop such an attack. We cannot tell who, among the thousands of Syrian refugees the administration wishes to resettle here, are terrorists. One particularly alarming statement to this effect came from the Director of the FBI, James Comey. In a hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs on October 8th of this year, Director Comey said, “there are certain gaps . . . in the data available to us” in screening Syrian refugees. This data, which includes fingerprints, background, or biographic information, is crucial for an adequate screening of potential refugees entering the United States. Director Comey continued in that hearing saying, “There is risk associated with bringing anybody in from the outside, but especially from a conflict zone like that.”
Director Comey has also previously acknowledged that despite a large pool of data on Iraqi refugees, our past program for admitting refugees from Iraq inadvertently allowed into our country “a number of people who were of serious concern, including two that were charged when we found their fingerprints on improvised explosive devices from Iraq.” Our ability to screen individuals from war-torn Syria is extremely limited by comparison.
Several states’ governors have recognized this difficulty and have accordingly moved to suspend cooperation with the administration in settling Syrian refugees in their states until these security concerns are addressed.
I share such concerns for protecting our country against terrorists who have clearly infiltrated the Syrian refugee population. I recently wrote a letter to the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In that letter, I asked that taxpayer funds be used effectively to properly and securely screen refugees entering the United States. I also requested in the letter that, as part of the appropriations legislation before the committee, it require a comprehensive plan on how security will be achieved. I requested this be a condition for any funding for refugee resettlement for Syrian refugees.
I said then, and emphasize now, that not one dollar should be expended until stringent parameters for vetting these refugees are established.
I would also suggest to President Obama that he reconsider his plans to admit Syrian refugees until the dust settles and we get to the bottom of the Paris attacks. We need to analyze what happened. We need to figure out how we can better screen these refugees and ensure that terrorists among them are not evading proper screenings. We need a time-out before we press forward.
I stress that the United States remains an extremely generous country. This year alone, we will allow 75,000 refugees fleeing persecution around the world to enter our country. But we have to set our own citizens’ security as our top priority. I call on Congress to act to ensure that this administration certifies that the most stringent security standards are in place before allowing any more of the Syrian refugees into this country. It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to prevent Friday’s attacks from happening here.
I yield the floor.