Friday, November 20, 2015

Rob Wittman's Weekly Update

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Take just a moment to think about the things in your life that make you happy and bring you closer to the people you love. Did you think, as many Parisians did, about a twilight meal on a patio? A soccer game with your children? A night of music with your friends? How about a Sunday morning at church or a day at the office? Now think about this: a world in which fear dictates what you do—where living a life that is honest and open could mean dying at the hands of jihadists bent on destruction. That world without tenderness or compassion is the one that ISIS and organizations like it are desperately trying to create. Theirs is a war of ideologies. It seeks to destroy not only human lives, but all of Western civilization. It is a battle against modernity and with it, liberty and equality. That is a battle that we cannot afford to lose.

On Monday night, I hosted a telephone town hall, and what I heard is that, in the aftermath of Friday's atrocities in Paris, folks all across Virginia's First District are concerned. ISIS has promised to infiltrate the President's refugee resettlement program with terrorist operatives, and yet Obama refuses to take pause, insisting instead on forging ahead to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees without reference to the fact that the vetting process has not been certified. His strategy (or lack thereof) begs the question: what do we do when the enemy is already inside the gates?

In April of this year, I introduced the International Conflicts of Concern Act (H.R. 1929), a bill to protect the United States by establishing a framework to temporarily restrict the travel of U.S. citizens to countries of conflict where they may radicalize and then return home to carry out an attack. The attacks in Paris were perpetrated in part by radicalized French nationals on French soil. In light of those events, it has become clear that ISIS is willing to use recruitment and the radicalization of our own people against us. There are already more than 2,000 documented Western fighters in Syria and Iraq, and more than 100 of those are American. Now is the time to cut off ISIS' evolution and reduce the risk that Americans will travel overseas, train, and return home to carry out acts of violence against the American people.

The International Conflicts of Concern Act would prohibit unauthorized personnel from traveling or distributing material support to entities engaged in armed conflict within those countries designated as countries of conflict concern. The legislation would automatically designate Syria as a country of conflict concern for a one-year period. Perpetrators would be subject to both civil and criminal penalties including up to a 20-year term in prison. This legislation would still allow for legitimate travel by licensed humanitarian aid workers and other groups with the necessary level of clearance.

This week, I signed onto a letter with a number of my colleagues in Congress urging the President to reconsider his broad refugee resettlement plan until a reliable vetting process is in place, and I sincerely hope he will heed our advice.

I am also a cosponsor of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015 (H.R. 4038), a bill introduced by Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Michael McCaul and Richard Hudson (R-NC-08) that would halt admission of refugees into the U.S. from Syria or Iraq until Congress has received unanimous certification from the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the FBI, and the Director of National Intelligence that those refugees do not pose a threat. That legislation was passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 289-137. I am not without empathy to the plight of the refugees. I have traveled to the Middle East as Chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, and I understand what these people have been through. But for their safety and ours, it is essential that we have an effective vetting process in place.


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