Thursday, November 19, 2015
Refugees From War Aren’t the Enemy
From the New York Times Editorial Board November 18, 2015. Well said!
The House is expected to vote Thursday on H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015, which Republican sponsors say “would put in place the most robust national-security vetting process in history” for refugees, one that would “do everything possible to prevent terrorists from reaching our shores.”
Conceived partly in response to the Paris attacks, the bill seeks to “pause” admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Though there are real fears of terrorism, this measure represents election-year pandering to the xenophobia that rears up when threats from abroad arise. People who know these issues — law enforcement and intelligence professionals, immigration officials and humanitarian groups — say that this wrongheaded proposal simply would not protect Americans from “foreign enemies.”
One of the bill’s chief sponsors, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, chairman of the House committee overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, surely knows how federal protocols for admitting refugees work. Yet the bill disregards the complicated current process, which already requires that applicants’ histories, family origins, and law enforcement and past travel and immigration records be vetted by national security, intelligence, law enforcement and consular officials. This process can take 18 months to two years for each person.
Among other hurdles, the measure would require that the secretary of homeland security, the director of the F.B.I. and the director of national intelligence personally certify that every refugee from Syria and Iraq seeking resettlement here is not a threat. That’s a lot of women, children, and old people.
Moreover, this bill ignores most of what the United States has learned, since 9/11 and before, of how potential terrorists actually reach these shores: such individuals more often already live here, or they come via illegal means. Unlike the refugees in Europe, those seeking resettlement in the United States must apply from abroad. They don’t arrive until formally admitted, and about half of those seeking refugee status are approved. Continue reading the main story
So far, half of the Syrian refugees accepted into the United States, officials say, have been children, and another quarter are over 60 years old. Roughly half are female, and many of those applying from abroad are multigenerational families, often with the primary breadwinner missing. About 2 percent are single males of combat age.
Given these facts, it is fair to say that the people who will be denied resettlement by this bill would be the victims of war, people who have been tortured and threatened by the same jihadists the United States now battles. They are families, they are old people and they are children, who might be given a chance for an education and a future. Continue reading the main story
This is a frightening time for Europe, and for the United States. Should this bill reach his desk, President Obama is more than likely to veto it because it has little to do with fighting global terror. It is sad that this proposal has been described as a first chance for the new speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to cooperate with the Senate. This bill doesn’t reflect who Americans are, and congressional leaders should have the good sense to realize that.
Posted by Ira Wise at 1:37 PM