Kuster Disputes Bill She Voted For Would 'Pause' Syrian, Iraqi Refugee Program

Dec 3, 2015

Ann McLane Kuster
Credit Allegra Boverman

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster bristled when asked about her support last month of a bill that would put a pause on the U.S. accepting Syrian and Iraqi refugees while a new, more stringent vetting process was established.

"The bill would not prohibit Syrian refugees from entering the nation. I think there's been a lot of misinformation frankly about the bill," Kuster said during an interview with NHPR's Morning Edition. "It doesn't pause the program. It doesn't apply a religious test. It's a certification that the person does not pose a threat to the security of the United States."

Kuster was referring to the "American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act," a bill passed a week after the attacks in Paris.

Despite opposition from the White House, Kuster was among the 47 House Democrats who joined the Republican majority in passing the bill, 289-137. Rep. Frank Guinta was among those in support.

The bill would require the secretary of Homeland Security, the head of the FBI and the director of national intelligence to affirm every Syrian and Iraqi refugee is not a threat before they can enter the country.

"In my view, this could be accomplished very easily by the administration with a few additional screenings," Kuster said. "For example, we have terrorist watch lists and that type of thing.  It doesn't need to be extensive. These people are already very extensively vetted; 18 to 24 months, currently."

However, despite Kuster's insistence it would not halt the refugee program, according to National Public Radio, "supporters of the bill say it would require a 'pause' in admitting Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as current applications would be halted while a new vetting process was established."

President Obama has promised to veto the legislation, arguing it would delay the refugee program while doing nothing to improve security.

The Senate has yet to act on the bill. The issue could instead be addressed in the year-end omnibus spending package.

In September, Kuster was part of a group of Congressional Democrats who called on the president to take in 100,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016

Kuster says she still hopes President Obama goes beyond the 10,000 Syrian refugees he's proposing.

"I do support increasing the number as long as we have the safety and security steps taken into consideration," she said.