Alaska’s congressman and U.S. senators are among the chorus of political leaders calling on President Obama to suspend his plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she wants a moratorium, a pause to give Congress and the public a chance to evaluate the vetting process. Murkowski said she knows screening a refugee family can take up to two years, but she isn’t clear on what it entails.
“And so until I know, I’m saying let’s put a stop on this right here, right now until we can ascertain what the process is in place,” she said.
Murkowski said the United States has history of offering safety to refugees, and she doesn’t want that generosity to disappear. But the senator said the phones in her office have been ringing off the hook with Alaskans concerned that if the U.S. accepts Syrians, a terrorist might be hiding among the innocent.
“I think that’s fair, because as generous and hospitable as we want to be for others, we also want to be able to ensure the safety of the families here at home,” she said.
Hundreds also weighed in on her Facebook page. Many were adamantly anti-refugee and showed no hint of hospitality. Murkowski says she understands that reaction too, after watching the horrible events in Paris on Friday.
“I think there is that very, very visceral response that we have, saying ‘This should not be allowed,’” she said.
Murkowski said she knows of no plan to settle Syrian refugees in Alaska. The state was not a destination for the 1,854 refugees that have been admitted to the U.S. since 2012.
President Obama, in a speech in Turkey, said the refugees are also seeking security from terrorism.
“Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” he said.
Sen. Dan Sullivan said in a Facebook post that the government needs a rigorous system to verify identities of asylum seeker before the U.S. can accept any Syrian refugees.
“We are a compassionate people, but we cannot afford to put our national security at risk,” he wrote.
Likewise, Congressman Don Young said the Syrian resettlement program should be halted until its safety can be assured.