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U.S. House Votes To Curb Syrian Refugee Program, Despite Obama Veto Threat

  • RFE/RL

The Obama administration has pledged to accept 10,000 Syrians in the next year.

The Obama administration has pledged to accept 10,000 Syrians in the next year.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives backed legislation tightening the vetting process for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, defying a veto threat from U.S. President Barack Obama.

Dozens of Democrats voted with Republican lawmakers on November 19 to pass the bill on a 289-137 vote.

The Obama administration has pledged to accept 10,000 Syrians in the next year from the massive outflow of refugees fleeing the civil war there.

The legislation would dramatically restrict the vetting process, instituting new conditions that critics say would all but end any chance for Syrian and Iraqi refugees to resettle in the United States.

Republicans say the heightened measures are justified by last week's terrorist attacks in Paris.

"ISIS has sworn to bring its war against innocents here," U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy (Republican-South Carolina) told colleagues, using an alternate acronym for the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

IS militants have taken responsibility for the November 13 Paris attacks that killed at least 129 people and wounded more than 350.

"The margin for error is zero," Gowdy added.

The bill will now head to the U.S. Senate, where it is unclear whether it will be passed.

Vowing a veto, Obama has castigated Republican lawmakers, saying the system is already robust and that the bill runs contrary to the U.S. history of accepting refugees and migrants.

Democrats argued on the floor of the House on November 19 that U.S. vetting of refugees is the most strict and thorough in the world.

U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (Democrat-New York) expressed outrage that members of Congress would move to prevent women, children, and the elderly fleeing violence in Iraq and Syria from entering the United States as refugees.

"We might as well take down the Statue of Liberty," Nadler said.

With reporting by AFP
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