The House has voted to pass the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act (SAFE) by an overwhelming 289-137 vote. The controversial bill is designed to stop Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the United States without first going through a very vigorous vetting process to prove that they aren't security threats.
Of the 289 who voted for the bill, 47 of them are Democrats, including congressman Patrick Murphy. One local member of congress who voted against the bill was Palm Beach Congresswoman Lois Frankel, who criticized the bill Thursday afternoon.
“People back home are understandably frightened," Frankel said before the vote was taken, "There is no question that ISIL must be destroyed and that the safety of Americans must be our first priority. But denying refuge to women and children who are fleeing rape and torture and who go through a two-year vigorous entry process will not make us a safer country. At a time when we are trying to forge a coalition of international nations, it is self-defeating to send a message of isolation. Our anti-terrorism resources must be focused on terrorists, not on innocent human beings seeking shelter from the most unspeakable horrors imaginable.”
The American SAFE Act would have several federal agencies prove to Congress that refugees admitted into the U.S. don't pose a security risk, as well as having the FBI certify background checks and audit all admitted refugees through the Office of the Inspector General — all measures the White House called "impractical."
Before the vote was taken, Obama said he would veto the bill had it passed. The president's comment on the bill were similar to that of Frankel, saying that it would "unacceptably hamper our efforts to assist some of the most vulnerable people in the world, many of whom are victims of terrorism, and would undermine our partners in the Middle East and Europe in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis.”
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Rep. Alcee Hastings joined Frankel in condemning the bill.
"What we’re here about today is pure, unadulterated politics. And it’s wrong," Hastings said in a statement. "The fact that you do not like this administration is your prerogative. I have my differences with this administration. But when the deal comes down to us taking care of this nation, none of us should stand here and say that we’re going to give up the values that this country is predicated on, and shut our borders to those who want nothing more than safety for their families. The next generation of Americans will study this moment as a divergence from the ideals on which this country was founded.”
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz called the bill "politically-driven and fear-mongering response to a serious threat." And says that it will "not ultimately strengthen our national security and in fact undermines the foundation upon which this nation was built."
Earlier this week, Gov. Rick Scott joined a handful of other governors who called on Congress to keep the federal government from allowing Syrian refugees into their respective states.