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WASHINGTON – Today, just days after ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead and hundreds more wounded, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) announced a new effort to strengthen the Visa Waiver Program.
During a press conference with Senate Democrats, Murphy – who is co-author of the bipartisan Judicial Redress Act – emphasized the importance of EU-U.S. law enforcement cooperation in keeping Americans safe, and called for a bipartisan effort to close a loophole that currently allows individuals on the terror watch list to purchase firearms and explosives in the United States. He also emphasized that the refugee program serves to rescue mostly women, children, and the elderly who have been victims of terror abroad.
The full text of Senator Murphy’s remarks is below:
Every night when I go home to my seven-year-old and my four-year-old, I’m reminded of my sacred obligation – first and foremost – to keep this country safe. And that’s reinforced by the hundreds of phone calls that I’ve gotten over the course of the last few days reminding me, and all of us, of that responsibility. That’s why I’m glad to be joined here today to talk about two very targeted and meaningful ways that we can protect this country from attack.
First, it just speaks to commonsense that those on the terrorist watch list shouldn’t be able to buy guns. Shame on us if we can’t find bipartisan, common ground to make sure that terrorists are on the same list as criminals of those who are prohibited to buy guns. But we also learned last night about the rigorous methodology that we use to screen the relatively small number of refugees that are fleeing violence from places like Syria. And 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.
And so I’m going to be pleased to join Senator Feinstein to work on legislation to tighten the Visa Waiver Program, and one of my contributions would be this: there are a number of important information sharing agreements that are pending in the EU and between the EU and the United States today. The Safe Harbor agreement and the Umbrella law enforcement agreement, to name two. Those agreements need to be signed in order for the Visa Waiver Program to continue. We need to know that Europeans are populating our No Fly List with the best information available in order to protect Americans.
And the last thing I’ll say is this: the notion that we 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. 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 singe males. They’re women, they’re children, the sick, the frail – those that have been beaten, those that have been battered, raped, and tortured.
America can, at the same time, protect our country and help rescue others who have been victims of torture and terror. And that’s going to be our focus moving forward.