‘A moral imperative’: Himes, Murphy call for enhanced security, protecting victims of terror

Protecting the United States from terror while safeguarding those fleeing it in their home country is a moral imperative, according to statements from both U.S. Rep. Jim Himes and Sen. Chris Murphy.

The two Democrats both offered comments to that effect in House and Senate speeches after the Paris terror attacks that killed more than 100 people.

But both men cautioned America against overly broad actions that would harm those who are most vulnerable.

“I share the concerns of my constituents and the American people that Congress must do all in our power to prevent a similar attack in the United States,” Himes said. “Fair-minded Americans know it’s essential that we keep our country safe while still maintaining our commitment to protecting innocents from violence and persecution in their home countries. I feel passionately that this is a moral imperative.”

Murphy made a similar statement, saying it was possible to safeguard American lives while also assisting refugees looking to flee terror attacks and a civil war.

“America can, at the same time, protect our country and help rescue others who have been victims of torture and terror,” he said. “And that’s going to be our focus moving forward.”

Murphy said the notion that the United States can’t both protect Americans from terror and save those who have been the victims of terror suggests “a smallness about America that violates the best traditions of this country.”

“I believe in American exceptionalism, and America at its best is able to secure our borders and rescue others who have been victims of horrific terrorist attacks,” he said. Those are the individuals that the refugee program targets. That’s why 98% of the refugees who have been brought here over the last year are not military-age single males. They’re women, they’re children, the sick, the frail — those that have been beaten, those that have been battered, raped, and tortured.”

Himes expressed similar sentiments.

“I have faith that we can provide shelter to the victims of ISIL and the Syrian civil war who seek refuge on our shores and use the full power of our military, intelligence, and security agencies to keep Americans safe from harm,” he said.

Himes announced his support of the American SAFE Act, which is intended to increase coordination between U.S. security agencies that are involved in screening Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

“The bill simply requires that our national security leaders certify that the thorough and extensive processes that are already in place to ensure the safety of our country are being followed,” Himes said. “After conversations with our national security leaders, I do not believe it will significantly increase the burden on these agencies, delay the 18- to 24-month wait time for refugees, or impair our ability to help those fleeing the war-torn region.”

Murphy called for tightening the Visa Waiver Program, under which citizens of 38 participating countries may travel to the United States for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa, and for greater information-sharing between the United States and Europe, to include adding to the no-fly list the names of those on European countries’ terror watch lists.

“It simply stands to reason that instead of focusing on 2,000 highly vetted immigrants, we should be focusing on the 20 million lightly vetted immigrants who come to this country every year,” Murphy said.