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SYRIAN REFUGEESThe US House of Representatives, defying a veto threat by President Barack Obama, overwhelmingly passed Republican-backed legislation on Thursday to intensify the already-stringent process of screening refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.

Dozens of Democrats joined Republicans as the House passed the measure 289-137.

That margin exceeded the two-thirds majority required to override a veto, and it came despite a rushed, early visit to Congress by top administration officials in a futile attempt to limit Democratic defections for the measure.

Thursday’s vote came six days after a burst of bombings and shootings in Paris killed 129 people, wounded many more and revived post-Sept. 11 jitters in the U.S. and Europe. The attacks have turned the question of admitting people fleeing war-torn Syria and Iraq into a high-stakes political issue in both the United States and Europe, and many congressional Democrats were willing to vote against their party’s president for fear of angering voters nervous about security at home.

Democrats opposing the Republican bill said the U.S. has no business abandoning its age-old values, including being a safe haven for people fleeing countries racked by violence. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks and controls vast swathes of Syria and Iraq, despite a growing military campaign against them by the U.S. and other nations.

“Defeating terrorism should not mean slamming the door in the faces of those fleeing the terrorists. We might as well take down the Statue of Liberty,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat.

Republicans said that in dangerous times, the government must first protect its own.

“It is against the values of our nation and the values of a free society to give terrorists the opening they are looking for” by not tightening entry restrictions, said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican.

Before Thursday’s House vote, the White House sent chief of staff Denis McDonough and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to the Capitol to try winning over Democrats. Democratic aides said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat, had a forceful exchange with Johnson, saying that opposition to the bill would be a terrible vote for Democrats that could cost them seats in next year’s elections.

France 24 /AFP
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