[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
The Obama administration has put forward plans to allow up to 25,000 Muslims from a number of countries in Syria to receive a visa waiver for a limited period of time if they are deemed to pose a threat to the United States.
The decision was made following the terror attacks on the Parisian offices of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. While they did not specifically address whether Muslims in France ought to be afforded such a visa waiver, the administration claimed it would address a concern for national security and to give “a safe haven” to those individuals who have been unfairly persecuted.
“We believe that allowing refugees from all regions of the world the same access to the U.S. visa waiver program will help reduce potential terrorism threat in countries around the world while also fostering a better understanding of American values and practices,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. “However, we recognize the importance of balancing security and compassion for all.”
“We also recognize the important work at home to ensure that the security and safety of all Americans is our highest priority, and we are prepared to do this by doing the things that will keep us safe,” Johnson added.
A petition on WhiteHouse.gov to allow 25,000 Syrian refugees into the United States was set up as part of the executive order temporarily granting blanket immunity to refugees from five countries whose citizens have joined the terrorist organization ISIS.
“It’s unconscionable that America’s most vulnerable have been turned away from getting the health care they need, the education they need, and the assistance they need,” said Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee that handles visa issues. “It’s unconscionable that America’s Muslim communities remain so afraid, particularly of traveling to their hometowns, that they are more likely to seek out ISIS’ brutal tactics and to commit acts of terror against their fellow citizens.”
In addition to allowing 25,000 Muslims into the United States, the Administration is also considering issuing a waiver to allow Syrian nationals to enter the country on a case-by-case basis. According to Reuters, administration officials plan to issue this waiver to more than 250,000 Syrian nationals currently in the country who have been displaced from their homes due to war-torn nations like Syria and Iraq.
Additionally, there is reportedly growing concern from Muslim organizations across America concerning the proposed policies. Several members of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR
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