USA (MNN) — The Refugee Vetting Bill, known as the American SAFE Actor HR 4038, is more or less dead.
By a margin of 55-43, the Senate fell short of the three-fifths needed to move ahead. “The Senators voted to keep the anti-refugee bill from proceeding. It will no longer continue through the Senate,” explains Kristine Van Noord with Bethany Christian Services. However, in the wake of its failure, politicians accused each other of not dealing with security concerns appropriately.
If you haven’t been following the bill’s path, Van Noord details how it got started. “The Bill, HR 4038, originally was created right after the Paris attacks. So, it was not in response to any attacks that had happened here in the U.S. but that had happened overseas and just the fear that that could possibly happen here in the U.S.”
At a time when the investigations pointed to Islamic extremists disguising themselves as refugees, fear spiked in the United States during an election cycle. Congressional and Presidential candidates alike called for action as they campaigned. The result was a hastily-written piece of legislation that zoomed through the House. As the bill awaited Senate attention, says Van Noord, “I think some of the representatives started stepping back and saying, ‘Let’s really look at what this process is.’ [They] really started looking at the security screening process for refugees coming into the United States.” The proposed bill wouldn’t strengthen the refugee screening process, but it would stop the process for Syrians and Iraqis.
As Congress looked deeper look, Van Noord says they found that ”the security process for refugees is one of the most rigorous screening processes in the world. It’s the most rigorous screening process for any visitors coming into the United States.”
All refugees coming to the United States are vetted first through the United Nations and then through U.S. authorities, including the National Counterterrorism Center, the Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Defense, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security. This screening process can take up to two years.
By the time the vote came around, the bill died with barely a whimper. But what it means, says Van Noord, is that it allows for the Resettlement Program to continue. It allows “the Syrians and Iraqis to continue to come in, and really, it’s a vote of confidence from our Representatives saying, ‘We believe that the current process is robust enough.’”
Here’s who is helped by the vote: many refugees are children who arrive as unaccompanied minors, having been separated from their families. Van Noord adds, “Those that are coming are those that have been persecuted. They are fleeing for their lives. They would love to be able to return to Syria or to Iraq, but they don’t have another option.”
In other words, they’re coming to the United States because they can’t go home and can’t stay in the second country that they fled to. “The only chance at hope and a future is really coming to a third country, like the United States,” she says.
In partnership with local churches and community agencies, Bethany Christian Services provides support to refugee and immigrant families to help them adjust to a new life in the United States. Bethany Christian Services is an affiliate of the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program (CWS-IRP), working with the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees in the United States.
They work with refugee families for the first six months they are in the country, says Van Noord. “We are able to welcome them at the airport, prepare housing for them, and kind of help them through that entire initial process into the U.S. We also have an in-depth employment program, English language classes, medical services.”
Ultimately, the goal is to provide a safe, new community for refugee and immigrant families where they will be able to thrive as contributing members of society. But, it goes deeper than that. Van Noord explains that this response is nothing more than answering our biblical mandate: “We feel that we are loving and welcoming those that God loves. We have a chance to serve the most vulnerable and to welcome them here, as Christ would have us welcome them.”