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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill Nelson says Syrian refugees already face strict vetting; real problem with visa waivers



Sen. Bill Nelson opposes legislation approved by the House last week to make it harder for Syrian refugees to enter the U.S., saying a rigorous screening process is already in place.

Besides, the Florida Democrat said, the concern is with people who could arrive on a visa waiver agreement the U.S. has with 37 countries.

“This is making political points,” Nelson said of the House bill, which is expected to come up in the Senate after the Thanksgiving break. Nelson predicted it may not get the 60 votes to clear a procedural hurdle.

The current refugee vetting process already takes about two years. But the House bill would add more layers that Nelson in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times called “unreasonable.”

“Every single Syrian refugee would have to be signed off by three people: the director of national intelligence, the secretary of homeland security and the director of the FBI,” Nelson said.

Last week, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act passed by a 289-137 vote and 47 Democrats joined in support, including Florida Reps. Patrick Murphy and Gwen Graham.

Nelson said the waiver program is more important because four of the Paris attackers were identified as French and Belgium citizens. While three were on the no-fly list, one was not and exposed a security hole, Nelson said.

“We’ve got to step it up on the visa waivers,” Nelson said, and one way is to better communication between countries in the program.

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 9:56am]


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