Attention Turns to Next Week’s Spending Bill
December 4, 2015
Amendment Vote Signals Shift Regarding Immigrants and Refugees
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Facing a Dec. 11 deadline to keep the government open, Congress will proceed next week on an omnibus spending bill. The failure of an immigration-related amendment Thursday is a sign of an improving debate on Capitol Hill about refugees.
The amendment, by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), failed on an 89-10 vote. It would have paused visas for more than 30 countries, required individuals from Visa Waiver Program countries to go through enhanced background and security checks or a 30-day waiting period, and required the government to perform additional screening before admitting refugees.
Meanwhile, senators from both parties are looking at bolstering the Visa Waiver Program. One proposal would require anyone that has traveled to Iraq or Syria in the past five years to obtain a visa to enter the U.S., even for people from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program.
“The conversation around refugees is changing for the better,” said Jacinta Ma, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the National Immigration Forum. “Congress is rightly starting to look elsewhere as it considers tighter security measures. Adding anti-refugee riders to the spending bill is not constructive.
“We need to treat refugees with compassion and ensure that our nation remains a country committed to freedom and to helping those fleeing violence and persecution.”