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Waco Tribune: Pause in immigration will let us improve vetting process for our safety

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WACO, February 12, 2017 | comments
By Rep. Bill Flores

There has been substantial confusion and some hysteria regarding President Trump’s recent Executive Order 13769 to temporarily suspend the entry of persons from seven troubled countries. I think it’s important to separate fact from fiction from flawed logic surrounding this order. Thus, I’m writing to report the facts.

Before getting into the weeds of this discussion, I want to state unequivocally that while I support the president’s executive order, I am profoundly disappointed by the exceptionally sloppy manner in which this executive order was implemented. I have communicated those concerns to the White House on behalf of our Central Texas constituents.

We Americans are a compassionate and generous people who value legal immigration along with admitting refugees who are capable of embracing our culture, our history and our unique liberties. That said, we should never needlessly expose ourselves to the tangible dangers our intelligence and security officials have repeatedly warned us about in recent months.

In December 2015, then-President Obama signed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act into law to restrict travel to the United States for persons who lived in or visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria since March 2011. The law was soon expanded by Obama’s Department of Homeland Security to cover Libya, Somalia and Yemen. These were identified in the agency’s announcement as “countries of concern,” a phrase used in the law.

In January, President Trump signed his executive order to suspend for 90 days the entry of immigrants and non-immigrants from those countries. The president issued this order to provide a pause for our national security agencies to implement robust improvements to our currently flawed refugee vetting processes.

Facts, fiction & flawed logic
It’s a fact the president has the authority to execute this executive order. Pursuant to The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, 8 USC 1101 (as subsequently amended), Section 1182(f) states: “Whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

The authority conferred upon the president under this decades-old act has been affirmed by the nation’s courts in the past. Currently, President Trump’s executive order has been subject to conflicting legal decisions and could be resolved by the Supreme Court.

Detailed process
The myth that the current vetting system is adequate because it is a detailed process taking 18-24 months for refugee admission is deeply flawed. Just because a process contains many steps and takes a long time does not automatically mean that it is effective or safe. Our current system has flaws and it is urgent that these weaknesses be addressed before resuming refugee immigration from the subject countries.

There are some who believe we should publicly disclose the flaws in our current vetting system. Such an action would be incredibly irresponsible because it would essentially give terrorists a road map to exploit our current system. I can share that the most concerning challenges to our current refugee program are ISIS and other terrorist elements. They actively seek to exploit weaknesses in our refugee and immigration programs. Our nation’s security personnel have stated that they are unable to properly vet persons traveling from these seven nations, which are classified as having “fragile” central governments.

Not ‘fragile states’
The criticism that the current suspension does not include Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries is unfounded. Those countries are not classified as “fragile states” and we have the capability to vet refugees and immigrants from those countries. Nonetheless, the implementation of changes to our vetting system during the temporary refugee suspension will also improve our vetting system for refugees from all countries.

Some argue that none of the 9/11 terrorists came from these seven countries. While this is correct, the footprint of al-Qaida and ISIS terrorist activities has grown significantly during the past eight years and they have taken advantage of areas with fragile and unstable governments throughout the world, particularly the Middle East and Africa. As with any security initiative, our activities should be focused on where the enemy is today and where the enemy is expected to be in the future, not where it was 16 years ago.

While it is partially true that no domestic terror attacks have been carried out by recently admitted refugees, we cannot forget that some of the recent domestic terror attacks were perpetrated by second-generation Sunni persons whose parents entered the country as immigrants and/or refugees. More importantly, while our country needs to be concerned with terrorism, it also needs to be focused on avoiding and stopping other criminal activities. In this regard, it’s worth noting the recent experiences of several European countries that have been afflicted by a spike in terrorist attacks as well as other criminal activity due to their governments’ failures to properly address the influx of refugees.

In closing, I agree with the president that we need to re-examine who we are allowing to come to our country, under what circumstances and the information that allows us to be able to ensure the safety of the American people. We should never needlessly expose our families to potential terrorism and other criminal activities.

Republican Congressman Bill Flores represents a district that includes Waco, Bryan/College Station and part of Austin. During the 114th Congress, Flores’ House colleagues elected him to serve as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest and most influential caucus in Congress.

To view this column as published CLICK HERE.

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