Hatch Urges Passage of Enhanced Screening for Syrian Refugees

Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate voted on whether to begin consideration of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, a bill to tighten screening of refugees from Syria and Iraq. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the senior Republican in the Senate, voted to take up the bill, calling it a sensible balance between the nation’s security needs and a desire to act compassionately. 

“As recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and elsewhere have made clear, the Islamic State and its followers aim to infiltrate our country and kill innocent Americans. In confronting the refugee crisis in the Middle East, we need to ensure that in welcoming refugees our nation isn’t taken advantage of by terrorists. Law enforcement and intelligence officials have repeatedly noted the alarming gaps in our ability to screen refugees from this region. This legislation takes a responsible approach by ensuring that our top national security officials certify that any refugees admitted from this dangerous region do not pose a security threat. I urge my colleagues to adopt this responsible approach that balances our compassion with our security needs.”


The American SAFE Act requires that, in addition to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) screening, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shall take all actions necessary to ensure that any alien applying for U.S. refugee admission that is a national or resident of Iraq or Syria, that has no nationality and whose last habitual residence was in Iraq or Syria, or that has been present in Iraq or Syria at any time on or after March 1, 2011 receives a background investigation before admission. Under this legislation, these aliens may not be admitted as a refugee until the FBI certifies to DHS and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) that he or she has received a background investigation sufficient to determine whether the alien is a U.S. security threat, and they may only be admitted to the United States after DHS, with the unanimous concurrence of the FBI and the DNI, certifies to Congress that he or she is not such a threat.

The legislation also mandates that the Inspector General of DHS conduct annual risk-based reviews of all certifications and that DHS report monthly to Congress on the total number of admission applications for which a certification was made and on the number of covered aliens for whom such a certification was not made for the preceding month. The report must include for each covered alien for whom a certification was not made the concurrence or nonconcurrence of each person whose concurrence was required by the certification.