House defies Obama to pass tougher Syrian immigrant screening

US flagThe House of Representatives has defied a threat to veto by President Obama by passing legislation, backed by the Republican Party, to suspend the administration’s policy to allow 10,000 Syrian immigrant refugees to enter the United States in the next 12 months. The legislation, which was passed yesterday by an overwhelming majority, will also intensify the screening process for those allowed entry.

The measure was drafted quickly after the attacks in Paris by Islamic State last Friday, which saw 129 people lose their lives. The legislation passed with 289 votes to 137, with 188 of the president’s fellow Democrats breaking rank to give their support despite a last-ditch appeal by Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and his chief of staff Denis McDonough.

Many Republicans have expressed fears that some militants, who are intent on carrying out terrorist attacks in the United States, will enter the country along with the flood of refugees, which appears to have been the case with at least one of the Paris attackers. When Anne Richard, an official with the State Department, claimed the chances of such a thing happening were “very, very small”, many Republicans responded with incredulity.

The bill, which would result in the immigrant refugees from nations torn apart by war facing the strictest screening ever to enter the United States, passed with the two-thirds majority required for the House to override any potential veto from the president. The next step is for it to pass the Senate.