Pinellas County Representative and GOP Senate candidate David Jolly got married last summer to Laura Donohoe, but because Congress was still in session at the time, the couple delayed their honeymoon plans until late November, when there would be a weeklong Thanksgiving congressional break.
Their plans were to celebrate their nuptials in the Paris, the City of Lights.
Then the terrorist attacks occurred there on Friday, November 13, just hours after Jolly spoke to hundreds of Republicans at the Sunshine Summit in Orlando.
“We were faced with much of the same concerns and fear that everyone across the U.S. and in Europe faced as well, and so in the face of that, you had to decide — do we continue on with our life, do we continue on as honeymoon travel, as planned in Paris?” Jolly said speaking from Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
“Laura and I talked about it, and decided it was the right thing to do.”
And off they went.
Jolly said a highlight from the nearly weeklong trip was visiting the many Christmas markets that open around this time of year around Paris.
“There were thousands of French people, kids riding carousels, people shopping for Christmas ornaments,” he recounts, including a noticeable security presence. “But I can tell you in those thousands upon thousands of people with Christmas carols playing, that was a minute that I realized that terror will never win.”
The terror attacks led to a major discussion in this country regarding resettling Syrian refugees into the U.S., with Jolly joining every other Republican in the House of Representatives in voting to put a “pause” on the issue.
The Obama administration has called for the U.S. to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by next year. Republicans have argued that Syrian refugees pose a security risk, after what authorities thought was a Syrian passport was discovered on the body of one of the attackers who killed 130 in Paris on November 13. The passport was later discovered to be fake, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans, and the issue is scheduled to come up in the big spending bill that needs to be approved by December 11.
More legislators say that the issue that needs to be dealt with first is the U.S. visa waiver program. On Monday, the Obama administration announced a proposal to more tightly screen travelers from 38 nations not required to get visas before traveling to the United States.
Jolly agrees that the visa waiver program is much more urgent to deal with regarding potential foreign terrorists entering the U.S., but says there is an even greater threat when it comes to the flow of foreign fighters.
“The greatest threat we face is an open border where somebody can find a way to come in illegally,” he says, meaning from either our northern or southern border and/or through our coastlines. The next most dangerous threat are homegrown terrorists. “The number of individuals who are considered homegrown terror suspects, that we currently provide surveillance to, dramatically outweighs anyone who might be coming in through the refugee resettlement program,” he says.
“The visa waiver program, refugee resettlement, border control, all these things need to be strengthed, but we need to keep it in context,” he says, adding, that “we still have a much more significant issue when it comes to an open border. That’s the greatest threat of all. I think we should deal with border security in immigration reform now as a result of that.”