Americans are right to question refugee policy
Many of us watched in horror as Paris was attacked by those who would later claim to represent the Islamic State.
In all, 129 innocent lives would be tragically taken from those whose only “crime” was enjoying a late night concert or eating dinner at a local Parisian restaurant.
The slaughtering of innocent lives once again took center stage on global news networks.
It took eight men to carry out the attacks on Paris.
No surprise there: It took just 19 men — armed, we must remember, with box cutters — to carry out the 9/11 attacks.
We’ve more or less always been a welcoming nation. But charity shouldn’t come at the expense of national security.
Just because we’ve allowed 1,900 or so Syrian refugees to relocate here since 2011 doesn’t mean we have to admit 10,000 more of them in the year ahead.
Different situations require different responses. The United States changed its refugee policy in the mid-1970s to accommodate boatloads of Vietnamese fleeing their communist rulers. We adjusted our laws again in 1980 to handle an influx of Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro’s godforsaken “worker’s paradise.”
But note the circumstances. The United States played a rather large role in instigating that refugee crisis from Southeast Asia 40 years ago. And Cuba is 90 miles off the coast of Florida. What’s nearer is dearer.
We know the Islamic State is exploiting the Syrian refugee crisis to move its fighters into Europe, because their leaders have said so and we’ve seen the results in Paris. And Turkey just arrested eight jihadists posing as refugees.
As it happens, the Wall Street Journal recently reported a brisk trade in stolen and forged passports in Turkey. Some of the phony refugees are gaming Europe’s immigration laws in search of work or welfare. But others may not have such selfish motivations.
One of the Paris jihadists reportedly had a fake Syrian passport with him. Some commentators seized on that story as evidence that the Syrian refugees aren’t the real problem.
On the contrary, it’s strong evidence that the massive and often chaotic influx of refugees into Europe has given terrorists the opportunity they need to move freely now and wreak havoc later.
We have been told by the White House that there is nothing to worry about in the U.S. because the Islamic State may have the ambition to do us harm, but “likely” lacks the capabilities to attack us here.
These “reassuring words” are coming from the same administration who only hours before the Paris attack, told George Stephanopoulos that the Islamic State had been “contained.”
We also know Obama administration officials have conceded that U.S. screening procedures are anything but foolproof. FBI Director James Comey last month told a congressional committee that “a number of people who were of serious concern” had slipped through as Iraq War refugees. “There’s no doubt,” he said, “that was the product of a less than excellent vetting.” When considering our refugee policy, it isn’t wrong to ask if the risks outweigh the rewards.
A recent FOX News poll found that two-thirds of the public, a broad cross-section including black and white, all age and income groups, and a plurality of self-identified Democrats, opposes the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.
If the president wants to change those numbers, he can start addressing the public’s concerns.
Instead, President Obama chose to take cheap political shots instead of giving legislators cover to support his policy, he suffered a crushing bipartisan defeat in the House of Representatives.
The good news, however, is that the House vote for a pause is not a rejection of refugees. It is just a pause, and Obama should view it as an opportunity.
It’s not as though Obama has not paused refugee processing when he wanted to in the past. He did so in 2011, when his administration halted all Iraqi refugee resettlements for six months.
It was a decision he could not have taken lightly. For unlike the current holdup, which might at worst consign some people to a slightly longer stay in a safe U.S.-funded refugee camp, his decision actually did result in at least one Iraqi who had helped the U.S. being assassinated while waiting for refugee status.
The reason Obama halted the entire refugee program was that an Iraqi refugee who had been let into the country in 2009, Waad Ramadan Alwan, living in Bowling Green, Ky., turned out to be an al Qaeda bomb-maker responsible for killing several American soldiers. His involvement with al Qaeda was confirmed by his fingerprints on a bomb trigger that American forces had retrieved in the field. After this discovery, Alwan was caught up in a terrorist sting operation. He and a relative had plotted to ship arms to al Qaeda in Iraq and to assassinate an Army officer stateside.
One hopes that the Alwan saga was enough to make U.S. officials strengthen the screening process substantially, adding more input from the available military intelligence that had previously been missing, and that it is now watertight. But all on its own, the story demonstrates that current fears among two-thirds of the public are not irrational, even if they should not indefinitely override America’s role in sheltering to those fleeing terrorism.
Knowing what we know now, the United States shouldn’t import more potential threats as a goodwill humanitarian gesture.