Story originally appeared on Houston Public Media.
Senate Democrats this week blocked legislation that would slow the entry of refugees from Syria and Iraq. The bill would have required high-level U.S. officials to verify that each refugee posed no security risk before entering the United States.
The refugee bill had earlier passed the House by a large margin after the November 13th attacks in Paris. But the Senate vote was five short of the 60 needed to advance the measure. No Republicans voted against the bill, and only two Democrats backed it.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas said tighter screening would ensure the safety of Americans.
“This legislation would have just very simply added additional safeguards to protect against this kind of threat.”
Senator Cornyn said the threat of terrorism hits home.
“This is not a hypothetical issue,” he said. “Earlier this year in Houston, a man born in Iraq, who entered the country as a refugee, was charged with providing material support to ISIS. This man reported that his plans included setting off two bombs at popular malls in Houston, and you can imagine the carnage that would cause.”
Cornyn insisted the proposed legislation was not an anti-refugee bill.
“They’re people needing a place to live and shelter, leaving war-torn parts of the world,” he said. “But terrorists will do everything they can to try to infiltrate the United States and cause harm.”
It currently takes 18 to 24 months for refugees to be screened.