Julian Pecquet: Congress eyes Syrian refugee threat — from Canada


Congress eyes Syrian refugee threat — from Canada
Julian Pecquet/Al-Monitor/February 01/16

US lawmakers have identified a new potential source of poorly vetted Syrian refugees: Canada.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee is slated to hold a hearing Feb. 3, on Canada’s so-called “fast-track” refugee plan and its implications for US national security. Canadian experts and a US Border Patrol agent are slated to testify.

The hearing comes as new Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. Trudeau initially planned to admit them in just six weeks, but was forced to review that timeline amid worries that they could not be properly vetted in such a short time.

US lawmakers, particularly Republicans, remain worried that even the new plan remains far too ambitious and could put America at risk since Western intelligence agencies have little information about Syrian applicants. The House voted in November to pause President Barack Obama’s plan to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. The bill died in the Senate on Jan. 20 on a strict party-line vote.

Separately, the House is slated to bring up another partisan bill Feb. 2, that would restrict Obama’s ability to lift sanctions on Iran. This will be the second time the lower chamber votes on the legislation from Armed Services member Steve Russell, R-Okla. New House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has tried to instill greater punctuality in members, had to vacate an initial vote on the Iran bill Jan. 13 after 137 lawmakers failed to make it to the floor in time.

Obama has vowed to veto the bill, arguing that it would make it impossible for the United States to live up to its commitments under the nuclear deal with Iran. The Senate has so far shown no interest in bringing it up.

Also on Feb. 2, the House Oversight Committee’s national security panel is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Seeking Justice for the Victims of Palestinian Terrorism in Israel.”

On Feb. 3, the House Financial Services Committee’s terror finance task force will hold a hearing on “Trading with the Enemy: Trade-Based Money Laundering is the Growth Industry in Terror Finance.”

That same day, the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Europe panel has scheduled a hearing on “Turkey: Political trends in 2016.”

Finally, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats panel holds a closed hearing Feb. 3 on “Counterterrorism Strategy: Understanding ISIL [Islamic State].”