U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) were among the 47 Democrats who supported the measure that passed by a 289-137 vote margin.
Reuters reported the measure would suspend the White House’s plan to allow 10,000 Syrians to resettle in the U.S. in fiscal year 2016. The news wire said the bill would also require the directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and national intelligence to verify each Syrian refugee is not a security risk before they are allowed to enter the country.
Lawmakers approved the bill six days after the Islamic State — a Sunni militant group also known as Daesh that controls portions of Syria and Iraq — claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and more than 300 others injured.
The three lawmakers joined 44 other Democrats in voting for the bill, even though President Obama has threatened to veto it.
The measure passed in the Republican-controlled House by a veto-proof margin. Senate Democrats on Thursday announced they plan to block the bill.
“Our nation has long stood as a beacon of freedom, but after the events of the last few weeks some leaders have given into fear and turned their backs on refugees,” said Maloney in a statement he released after the vote. “These actions are reprehensible, and present a false choice between our values and our security. It’s understandable that people are scared, and Americans have a right to know that the process we use to screen refugees will keep us safe. I have faith in our system, and I don’t believe these refugees — the overwhelming majority of whom are women, elderly, and children — threaten our communities or national security. So instead of slowing the program or pausing it, the administration should agree to immediately certify refugees if they pass the current extensive screenings and we should all refocus on actual threats.”
Sinema also issued a statement in which she explained her vote.
“The Islamic State is a legitimate, immediate threat to the United States,” said the Arizona Democrat. ”Congress and the Administration have a duty to keep our country safe from terrorism, and this legislation provides an added level of security to our robust refugee vetting process.”
“Welcoming refugees is part of America’s legacy, and we must continue to be a safe haven for the most vulnerable in our world,” she added. “Today’s bill strengthens our already thorough refugee screening process so we can both keep our country safe and continue to shelter those in need.”
“I support allowing greater numbers of refugees fleeing violence — beyond the administration’s suggested number of 10,000 — to find safety here, and I support improving our vetting system to ensure that those we admit will make our country safer,” Polis told the Washington Blade in a statement.
“The SAFE (Security Against Foreign Enemies) Act enables us to continue accepting refugees while strengthening our already-extensive vetting process so that we are taking every step within our power to ensure the safety of the American people,” added the Colorado Democrat. “Throughout my time in Congress, I’ve forcefully advocated for enabling children and families whose lives have been torn apart by violence to take refuge in the United States, and I very much want to see the United States accept more refugees of all faiths fleeing from ISIS.”
The three lawmakers faced criticism from constituents and others over their vote in favor of the bill.
“Today you voted for fear,” wrote a man on Sinema’s Facebook page. “You have essentially sided with the terrorists and what they want by making it virtually impossible for refugees to come here.”
Jamie McGonnigal, an LGBT rights advocate in D.C., also criticized the three lawmakers.
— Jamie McGonnigal (@McBenefit) November 19, 2015
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, is among the more than two dozen governors who have urged the Obama administration to no longer resettle Syrian refugees in their respective jurisdictions in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
State Department spokesperson Mark Toner earlier this week told reporters that all refugees undergo “rigorous screening and security checks” before they are allowed to resettle in the U.S. He said Syrian refugees “go through…additional forms of security screenings.”
Advocates have urged the White House to allow 500 LGBT Syrians to resettle in the U.S. in the 2016 fiscal year. Log Cabin Republicans is among the groups that support calls to block Syrian refugees from entering the country after the Paris attacks.