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Republican Lawmakers Call on Obama to Halt Syrian Refugee Program

  • Cindy Saine

FILE - A Syrian refugee child sleeps on his father's arms while waiting to board a bus, after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, Oct. 4 , 2015.

FILE - A Syrian refugee child sleeps on his father's arms while waiting to board a bus, after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, Oct. 4 , 2015.

Returning to Capitol Hill Monday, many U.S. lawmakers said the political landscape has been altered by Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

"Paris changes everything,” said Republican House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul.

McCaul sent a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to halt the admission of Syrian refugees into the United States after one of the Paris attackers was found to have posed as a refugee.

McCaul wrote: “In light of the terrorist attack in Paris, I call on you to temporarily suspend the admission of all additional Syrian refugees into the United States pending a full review of the Syrian Refugee resettlement program.”

Watch related video report from VOA's MIchael Bowman:

​Other Republican lawmakers joined in criticism of Obama's refugee proposal.

Republican Senator Jeff Sessions rejected Obama administration plans to welcome more Syrian refugees telling VOA:

“It cannot be the solution to instability in the Middle East that everybody abandon their home and flee to Europe or the United States. This cannot be," he said. "The United States should help refugees, as are other nations. I think we should have a determined policy to create in Syria and nearby safe zones where these refugees, if they feel they have to flee, can stay. Many of them are not classic refugees. They seem to be more economic migrants than refugees. Many, many young males, not families.”

Core Values

Obama said the United States would betray its core values if it refuses to accept Syrian refugees, and said it is “shameful” to impose a religious test to only admit Christian refugees as some Republicans have advocated.

Democratic House Ranking member Eliot Engel agreed, telling VOA that Syrian refugees should be properly vetted, but the U.S. should not “slam the door” on them. Engel likened the impact of the Paris attacks for France to the life-changing September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Engel told VOA that Islamic State terrorists are not true worshippers of any religion, but fascists.

A number of Republican lawmakers called on new House Speaker Paul Ryan to make sure there is no funding for Syrian refugees in a spending bill that has to be passed by December 11. Republican Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul is introducing legislation to halt visas for refugees.

U.S. Capitol Police officers keep watch over the East Front of the Capitol as Congress prepares to return to work following the weekend terror attacks in Paris that killed 129 people, in Washington, Nov. 16, 2015.

U.S. Capitol Police officers keep watch over the East Front of the Capitol as Congress prepares to return to work following the weekend terror attacks in Paris that killed 129 people, in Washington, Nov. 16, 2015.

The Paris attacks and an Islamic State video threatening an attack on Washington, D.C. seemed to have put lawmakers on edge.

U.S. Capitol Police said there is no specific information of a threat to the Capitol, but encouraged lawmakers and aides to be vigilant, saying it is always an appealing target for terrorists. Capitol police urged lawmakers to use tunnels to walk back and forth between their offices and the Capitol “out of an abundance of caution.”

The House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees plan to hold hearings this week to focus on the U.S. response to the Paris attacks.

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