McCaul Rejects Refugees

While assistance is needed, Rep. McCaul opposes harboring Syrian refugees

Mike McCaul
Mike McCaul

Will Texas host more of the millions of Syrians currently fleeing their war-wracked home? Not if Texas Congressman Mike McCaul has anything to say about it.

The Syrian refugee crisis that has dominated international headlines recently is simply another symptom of the four-year civil war in the Middle Eastern nation. However, the Republican chair of the House Commit­tee on Homeland Security appeared on Fox News this week to restate his opposition to accepting Syrian refugees. Saying he had been privately briefed by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI that they could not provide proper background checks on those seeking refugee status, McCaul said, "I cannot support a program that could potentially bring jihadists into the United States."

The need for nations to assist refugees is undoubted. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are currently 4.1 million Syrians who have fled the country, mostly to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Additionally, the United States Agency for International Development reports there are 12 million people still in Syria in need of humanitarian assistance, 7.6 million of whom are classified as "internally displaced" – meaning they have had to flee their homes but have not left the country. That means that, out of a pre-war population of around 23 million, over half of Syrians have fled their homes.

So far, the U.S. response has been threefold. First, arming anti-ISIS forces. Second, by sending $4 billion in humanitarian aid via USAID – though it's become increasingly difficult to get assistance into Syria, with refugee agencies reporting that the number of people in areas that are difficult or impossible to reach has risen from 2.5 million in 2013 to 4.8 million at the beginning of 2015. The third response has been accepting a small number of refugees. However, the U.S. is only scheduled to accept around 2,000 Syrian refugees, roughly one-twentieth of a percent of the total number, before the end of the year, but McCaul has previously opposed that number as too high.

In May, a group of 14 Senate Democrats asked the White House to help America share more of the burden by taking in 65,000 refugees. That would be half of the total number of refugees the UNHCR plans to resettle over the next two years, even though the agency has only submitted 12,000 applicants to the U.S. Noting that "refugees are the most carefully vetted of all travelers to the U.S.," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said it was "a moral, legal, and national security imperative for the United States to lead by example in addressing the world's worst refugee crisis of our time."

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