Legislative Updates

In Wake of Paris Attacks, Lawmakers Consider Domestic Risks, Impact on Visa Waiver Program

Lawmakers continued to react to the November 13 attacks in Paris, voicing concerns about risks to the homeland in light of elevated terror alerts across the world, including Brussels, where law enforcement officials conducted raids late Sunday.

Members also began to raise concerns with the Visa Waiver Program, a program that allows citizens of approved countries to enter the US visa-free.  Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) introduced legislation this week that would close an existing loophole allowing foreign nationals who enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program to purchase and wield firearms.  The Visa Waiver Program Firearms Clarification Act of 2015 (S. 2323) would extend an existing prohibition that currently applies to nonimmigrant visa holders from countries outside of the program.  Senate Democrats plan to introduce bipartisan legislation after the Thanksgiving holiday that would require new identity checks under the program.  The bill is being developed by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), nine other Senate Democrats, and Republican Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona), and would reportedly include provisions barring federally-licensed gun dealers from selling firearms to known or suspected terrorists if government officials believed they might be used for terrorism.

Upcoming Hearings:

  • Thursday, December 3:  The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency will hold a hearing titled “Driving Away with Taxpayer Dollars: DHS’s Failure to Effectively Manage the FPS Vehicle Fleet.”

Executive Branch Updates

Group of Governors Oppose Syrian Refugee Resettlement

The Paris attacks have opened a new rift between the Administration and a number of states on a program to resettle refugees from the Syrian conflict.  In response to concerns that ISIL fighters could sneak into the U.S. through the stream of refugees, Governors from over 30 states vowed to block attempts to resettle Syrian refugees within their borders.

Before departing Washington for the Thanksgiving holiday, the House of Representatives passed a measure (289-137) that would tighten entry restrictions for refugees under the President’s program.  The American SAFE Act of 2015 (H. R. 4038) would effectively freeze implementation of the refugee resettlement program, and quickly drew a veto threat from the White House.  While the outcome of any Senate vote on the American SAFE Act remains unclear, questions surrounding the Syrian refugee resettlement program risk further complicating upcoming budget negotiations before Federal spending authority expires after December 11.