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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Pro & Con on closing the door

Langevin defends anti-refugee vote. Progressive Dems refute him

EDITOR’S NOTE: This entry combines two articles that ran in Rhode Island’s Future. The first, by RIF Editor Bob Plain describes Bob’s conversation with Rep. Jim Langevin about his vote to support HR 4038, a Republican bill that would make it virtually impossible for the US to provide safe haven to refugees from the Syrian civil war. The second article from the Rhode Island Progressive Democrats blasts Langevin for this vote. I have also included Rep. Langevin’s official news release stating his reasons for voting for the bill. – W. Collette

By Bob Plain in Rhode Island’s Future

Congressman Jim Langevin defending his support of a GOP-backed bill that would add more layers of bureaucracy to the process of accepting Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

“After reading the bill, I was convinced that it does not stop the process, it really doesn’t shut the program down, nor does it significantly slow it,” Langevin told RI Future in an interview, which you can listen to in its entirety below. “It added modest layer of new security in terms of the vetting process but nothing that would shut down or significantly slow the vetting process, and that’s ultimately why I supported it.”

He said it wasn’t difficult to vote against President Obama, who strongly urged Democrats not to support the Republican-backed bill. “All of my decisions are based on the merits. They don’t belong to a particular party or special interest.”

Langevin, who told me he didn’t see State Sen. Elaine Morgan’s comments about Islam and Muslim refugees, said he thinks the United States should accept more Syrian refugees than the 10,000 Obama has called for – and that he thinks the government should add resources to ensure the refugee process moves quicker.

“I strongly support additional resources that will expedite the process,” he said. “The best thing we can do to make sure we’re not slowing the process down is put more resources into vetting so we can speed it up.”

When asked how he thinks Rhode Islanders feel about the issue, he said, “I’ve heard from people on both sides of this issue.”

The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats vehemently opposed bill H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies SAFE Act.  On November 19th this bill passed the House by a vote of 289-137, with only 47 Democrats voting in favor of it. Sadly, Representative Langevin was one of them.

This bill is a continuation of an overreach by the right wing conservative majority that has over taken the House of Representatives.  

The vetting process for refugees entering this country is already more than sufficient. These additional layers of bureaucracy are completely unnecessary. They put an undue burden on our security departments, and they will unnecessarily increase the time that it takes for Syrian refugees to be admitted. 

And with a military budget of $600 billion we should all wonder why the implementation of effective and expedited screening isn’t already in place.

It can take years for refugees to be allowed to enter this country. With these additional redundant and unnecessary security checks it could delay the process even longer. President Obama has promised to veto the legislation and one would think that a Democratic Representative of a supposedly blue state would support the President on such an important issue.

By siding with the Republican right wing majority, Langevin sets himself apart from the compassionate and understanding legislators who know that there needs to be a balance with security and timeliness in getting refugees vetted and resettled in this country. 

His actions show, once again that the D next to his name means nothing. He has shamed the state, our founding father Roger Williams, and all of the great people of Rhode Island who want to do more for the people of Syria.

The people of Syria have no choice but to leave their homeland due in large part to the United States destabilizing the region in the first place. The people of Syria are not Daesh. They are civilians who want to live in peace, who want to have shelter, who want to save the lives of their children.

Langevin’s reaction to this crisis is just another reason why 2016 should be his last year in Congress.


Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI), a senior member of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, released the following statement in response to House passage, by a vote of 289 to 137, of H.R. 4038, the American SAFE Act of 2015:

“The safety and security of my constituents and all Americans is my first priority, and the American people should feel completely confident that we, as a Congress and as a nation, are doing everything in our power to protect our people and our freedom from the threat of terrorism and all those who seek to do us harm. However, I do not believe that protecting our national security precludes us from showing compassion to the refugees fleeing unspeakable violence and oppression in Syria, Iraq and other conflict zones. I know that we can both protect the American people and stay true to the values of the United States, a nation of immigrants that has been a beacon of hope for those who seek freedom, opportunity and tolerance, as well as protection from persecution.

“I voted today in favor of additional safeguards that will ensure the highest level of security screening for those who wish to enter this country and live by the American principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Existing refugee screening standards are already rigorous and include biometric record checks and extensive interviews with specially-trained DHS officers, with preference given to the most vulnerable refugees. The process, which typically takes 18 to 24 months, is designed with a litany of checks and balances by an inter-agency team that includes the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center. Today’s legislation would additionally require the FBI, Homeland Security Department and Director of National Intelligence to certify to Congress that any refugee from Syria or Iraq does not pose a threat to the United States. I believe these requirements will provide a reasonable new layer of assurance to our protocols, and I will do whatever I can to ensure that the resources are available to carry them out in a way which does not close or delay the resettlement process for those refugees who meet our criteria.

“The Statue of Liberty, a symbol of American independence, reminds us of our roots. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ We cannot forget those powerful words or what they mean to us, to our forefathers and to the world. We cannot let fear, hate or prejudice destroy our way of life. This great nation, a melting pot from its infancy, will continue to welcome all those who flee persecution and seek freedom. With our friends and allies around the world, we stand united against terrorism.”