YORKTOWN, N.Y. -- The Senate version of a bill to establish a way to monitor New York state's refugee program for potential terroristic threats, sponsored by state Sen. Terrence Murphy, R- Yorktown, passed the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs last week.
The bipartisan bill has been introduced in the state Assembly by Assistant Majority Leader Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn.
"In light of recent tragedies that have unfortunately become more and more of a common occurrence, we need to do everything possible to protect our citizens," Hikind said. "Through properly monitoring the registration records and conducting thorough background checks on these refugees, we'll be better equipped to protect the people of New York state while continuing to provide ample humanitarian services to those seeking asylum."
Federal officials, including the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, said recently that gaps in the federal screening process leave the "potential opportunity for terrorist organizations to move its members into other nations for potential attacks" via the refugee program.
Meanwhile, in his Easter weekend radio address, President Barack Obama vowed on Saturday to admit even more Syrian refugees under the program. The legislation sponsored by Murphy and Hikind seeks to assuage those concerns while recognizing the need for humanitarian action.
"If there is even the potential of a threat, we must act," Murphy said. "Under our bill, the state will be asking for no more than the federal government already asks for but does not provide to us. In our current system, no one is monitored after they arrive here. That must end, for if even one terrorist makes it through under the auspices of this program and slips off the grid, it will be a tragedy we could have averted with this bill."
The legislation requires the 10 international agencies that facilitate refugee resettlement through local affiliates, which are defined in federal law as "voluntary agencies," become state-defined "refugee resettlement agencies," as is done in other states.
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