Senate Democrats recently blocked the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, eliciting disdain from U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).
The SAFE Act would require U.S. agencies to verify the backgrounds of refugees entering the U.S. and ensure they have no ties to terrorist groups,
“The facts are clear,” Vitter said. “As of right now, the federal government does not have complete and adequate safeguards in place to protect Americans here at home, as additional Syrian refugees are admitted into the U.S. We need to achieve a higher standard of safety, secure our borders and keep out all terrorists, and voting in favor of the SAFE Act is a small step in the right direction to do just that.”
Specifically, the SAFE Act would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to conduct background checks on incoming refugees, following certain protocols. First, all individuals who meet the definition of a “covered alien” would need a background check. This includes those who are foreign nationals or residents of Iraq or Syria; those who have no nationality, but whose last known residence was Iraq or Syria; or those who have been to Iraq or Syria since March 1, 2011.
The SAFE Act would require the inspector general of DHS to conduct risk-based reviews of certifications on an annual basis. In addition, DHS would have to disclose to Congress the number of "covered alien" applicants, as well as how many are admitted to the U.S.
Finally, the SAFE Act would require that DHS, the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) certify to Congress that those admitted are not threats to national security.
In September, Vitter sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry requesting information on what protocols were established to screen Syrian refugees, alleging insufficient federal oversight of Syrian refugees entering the U.S. Vitter introduced the Syrian Refugee Verification and Safety Act in November, which would have halted the influx of all refugees from Syria until a method were put in place to confirm the identity of each refugee. Vitter's bill currently is under review in the Senate Judiciary Committee.