Veto-Proof Majority Back Tougher Syrian Visa “Refugee” Standards

In a stunning defeat for the President, 47 Democrats voted to toughen visa requirements for any Syrian “refugee” attempting to enter the United States.Syrian_refugees_strike_in_front_of_Budapest_Keleti_railway_station._Refugee_crisis._Budapest,_Hungary,_Central_Europe,_3_September_2015

Despite Obama’s veto threat, the House overwhelmingly passed the legislation which calls for mandatory FBI background checks and individual sign-offs by top U.S. officials.

The White House has been lobbying viciously behind the scenes to block even this relatively mild increase in scrutiny for the refugee visa program.  Now, Obama is trying to limit the political damage by working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Jeff Flake to tweak the visa process enough to satisfy public outrage.

Obama’s newfound focus on visa changes marked an effort to subdue momentum for the refugee bill following the White House’s failed lobbying effort in the House. Some Democrats briefed on the refugee screening process by Obama’s chief of staff and Homeland Security secretary emerged far from impressed, leading to Thursday’s 289-137 vote to undermine the president’s program.

Obama has called for accepting roughly 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year. But that program has been plunged into uncertainty following the Paris attacks that killed 129 and stoked deep fears across the West about terrorism being exported from Syria, where the long-raging civil war has fueled the Islamic Stage group’s rise.

Even these modest changes, which still face Senate scrutiny and a potential Presidential veto may not be useful in weeding out potential terroists accordingto experts.

Yet some top officials, including FBI Director James Comey, have warned of a shortage of information about many Syrians applying for refugee status. Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, conceded that was the case, but said Friday that the U.S. does have intelligence on the Syrians most likely to carry out violence.

“A Syrian child is not going to have an intel record, but precisely for that reason, we believe that this is not the pool of individuals who are most likely to be ISIL operatives,” Rhodes said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. “That’s not a reason not to allow them into the country.”