The safety and security of Virginians is my greatest concern and top priority. We must never forget that there are individuals, groups, and indeed, entire countries that seek to do harm to our citizens and destroy our way of life. So we must be ever vigilant in protecting our homeland to ensure all of our citizens can live in peace and security. This is one of the fundamental roles of the federal government, and one which I am personally committed to working on every day on your behalf.
For years, civil war and sectarian violence have ravaged parts of the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Syria. The violence in this part of the world has left millions homeless and caused a great humanitarian crisis for nations that simply do not have the infrastructure or expertise to address. That volatility and regional instability gives groups like the Islamic State (ISIS) and others the opportunity to export terrorism around the world and radicalize followers to perpetrate acts of violence, as we have seen in the Orlando night club shooting, the Christmas market attack in Berlin, and others. There is no limit to what those who wish to carry out these heinous acts of violence will do to terrorize innocent people.
It is amid this backdrop of instability and global terror threats that President Donald Trump issued an executive order to temporarily pause refugee resettlement from a select group of war-torn, volatile countries that are known to harbor and export terrorists. Those countries - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia - were previously identified by the Obama Administration as countries of concern for the exact same reason. The order, which I read in its entirety, goes on to state that during the pause in refugee resettlement our national security agencies will conduct a review of the refugee resettlement vetting process to ensure that anyone entering the United States does not pose a national security risk. Once that review is completed and the best, most thorough vetting process is in place, refugee resettlement may continue.
As with any time of transition, there can often be confusion with orders such as this one. We saw that unfold over last weekend. However, since that time we have learned from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly that this executive order will not prevent lawful green card holders from returning to the United States. My view on this order is simple: if it prevents one potential terrorist from entering our country, if it saves the life of one innocent American, then it was worth it.
In addition to pausing resettlement, we must also ensure non-U.S. citizens currently residing within the U.S. are not able to travel from the United States to countries of conflict, like Iraq and Syria, where they might be radicalized and trained to carry out attacks, and I have introduced legislation to block such travel.
We have and will continue to be a compassionate nation. Refugees from around the world have always looked to the US as a place of safety and found support. However, we must ensure terrorists aren’t able to exploit refugee resettlement to gain entry to the U.S. This temporary pause, along with my legislation, will ensure a safe and secure homeland for both our citizens and for individuals coming here as immigrants or refugees.