Admission of Syrian refugees

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We begin with a passage from The New Colossus (by Emma Lazarus), a poem that is graven on a tablet at the Statute of Liberty.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

These sentiments sound noble, and fans of liberal US immigration policies often quote them. It’s almost as though there shouldn’t be any immigration laws, just open the borders and let people come and go as they please. Liberals don’t actually advocate open borders, but permissive laws can achieve essentially the same result.

There is a flood of refugees from the Middle East as a result of the Syrian civil war, etc. Europe faces an influx of hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of refugees. It’s said this country must do its part, and the president has directed that 10,000 Syrian refugees be admitted next year. What you need to know about the Syrian refugee crisis and what the US is doing to help, Tanya Somanader,,

The U.S. expects to admit 70,000 refugees from all over the world this fiscal year, and President Obama has directed his Administration to scale up the number of Syrian refugees we will bring to the U.S. next year to 10,000.

There has been considerable political pushback since the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, but the administration has shown no sign of rethinking its position and many Democratic politicians remain adamant that the US must be “a welcoming country to those seeking safety from fear and persecution.” Delaware Governor Jack] Markell defies calls to refuse refugees, Jon Offredo, News Journal,

Critics suggest admission of these refugees isn’t required under international law, as they don’t meet the criteria for sanctuary (many aren’t even from Syria), and entails unwarranted security risks. Former ambassador to UN [John Bolton]: US has “no obligation” to accept Syrian refugees, Barbara Hollingsworth,,

Which side makes the better case? Discussion follows.

A. SCOPE OF THE ISSUE– If the admission of 10,000 Syrian refugees were all that was at stake, there probably wouldn’t be a great deal of opposition. But it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

FIRST, the president’s low-key directive has been followed by calls for stronger action – such as admitting ten times more Syrian refugees next year than the president called for. The case for accepting Syrian refugees, Ryan Crocker (former US diplomat), Wall Street Journal,

When I served as ambassador to Iraq, I witnessed how the slow pace of processing left Iraqi refugees—including many who worked for the U.S. military—stranded in danger. Some died waiting for visas. That’s why the Obama administration should commit to resettling 100,000 Syrian refugees over the next year.

The program to bring in Syrian refugees was launched some time ago, and over two thousand have already arrived with many more in the pipeline. US “discriminates” against Christian refugees, accepts 96% Muslims, Valerie Richardson, Washington Times,

10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming year would basically represent a continuation of the current program, but the administration apparently plans to pick up the pace. Obama: The number of refugees from Syria and elsewhere will be increased [from the current 70,000 per year global level] “to 100,000 per year,” Michael Snyder,,

SECOND, the Syrian refugees would be on top of the admission of over two hundred thousand Muslim refugees since the early 1990s – from Iraq, Somalia, and other predominantly Muslim areas designated as persecution hot spots by a UN organization. United Nations to flood US with Muslim refugees at taxpayer expense, Pamela Geller,,

These immigrants are typically settled in selected areas rather than being dispersed throughout the country, and they are not readily or naturally assimilated. The costs of their resettlement and ongoing welfare benefits are borne by taxpayers. Local communities have often struggled in attempting to accommodate their needs. Ann Corcoran,, 4/20/15, video (4:00).

Humanitarian considerations aside, these refugees are not desirable additions to the US population. They typically don’t speak English, have little familiarity with our culture or laws, and lack valuable training or expertise. With the US labor participation rate at its lowest level since the 1970s, there isn’t much need for more unskilled labor.

Security risks are unavoidably involved when accepting refugees from regions that have been wracked by turmoil and partisan strife for generations. A bigger threat than an expiring Patriot Act? Daniel Horowitz, Conservative Review,

There are undoubtedly plenty of Muslims who are being persecuted in the Middle East, but it is becoming harder and harder to untangle the web of disparate radical groups that are at war with each other, yet have the ability to obtain refugee status. There are countless Muslim refugees in Syria and Iraq who have been legitimately displaced from their homes but who harbor the same radical Islamic views as those conquering their neighborhoods.

THIRD, the overall rate of immigration to the US has been rapid, and it is straining the fiscal resources and social fabric of this country. Not only must illegal immigration be stopped, which won’t be easy, but the rate of legal immigration needs to be slowed as well. Special report: 3 shocking immigration trends, Daniel Horowitz, Conservative Review,

Here is a chart showing the rate of immigration this country has experienced over the past 45 years. Some 34 million people have been added to the population during this period, and the foreign born percentage of the population has steadily increased. A continuation of this trend is projected, with an additional 35 million immigrants by 2060 and the foreign born percentage of the population rising to nearly 19%.

immigration chart 1

Some may say this is fine because the United States is “a nation of immigrants” and the new arrivals will fuel an economic boom. But where is the evidence that the surge of immigration since 1970 has promoted a robust economy? The last several decades have brought slowing economic growth, and there isn’t much evidence of a turnaround in the making. The six-year slough: New GDP revisions show the worst recovery in 70 years was even weaker, Wall Street Journal, 7/30/15.

•Real GDP growth averaged 4.6% in the first six years of the Reagan expansion, and more than 3.6% a year in the first six years of the George H.W. Bush-Bill Clinton expansion (gaining speed after that).

•Since the recession ended in June 2009, the economy has grown at an annual rate of about 2.1%. That’s 0.6-percentage points worse than even during the much-maligned George W. Bush expansion. Growth averaged more than 3% from 2003-2006, but the best growth during the Obama years has been 2.5% in 2010, and in both 2011 and 2013 it nearly slipped back into recession.

•Leading lights on the left have even thrown up their hands to suggest we no longer really know what produces faster growth. Larry Summers calls it “secular stagnation,” as if it’s an illness we somehow caught. Others claim 2%-2.5% growth is about as good as we can now do, so get used to it—and keep interest rates at near-zero for as far as the eye can see.

While cultural diversity does offer benefits, it shouldn’t come at the expense of a common language, national heritage, and shared values. The sense of national identity in this country is eroding, and it’s unclear what will take its place. Adios America! The Left’s plan to turn our country into a third world hellhole, Ann Coulter,

The only reason for continuing the current immigration policies is political, i.e., Democrats envision becoming the undisputed majority party of this country as a result. Notice the gleeful tone of this prediction that Hillary Clinton will win the White House decisively in 2016, after which Republicans will have no choice but to abandon all of their traditional ideas and become an “us too” party. Why 2016 could be shattering for Republicans, Stanley Greenberg, Washington Post,

It is easy to imagine, then, that after the coming shattering election, some Republican leaders will repudiate this campaign’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim appeals and actively embrace the United States as an immigrant nation. Other leaders might accept the sexual revolution and the new gender roles and work to help the modern working family. Others might embrace again the need for national investment in education and modern infrastructure. That would allow a different kind of debate within the Republican Party and, perhaps, a different kind of politics in the country.

B. MORAL OBLIGATIONS – Is it selfish to suggest that the United States should follow immigration policies that promote its national interests rather than placing primary emphasis on helping outsiders who are not faring well and would like to come here? We’re doing fine, too bad about you!

As with most moral questions, there are no black and white answers. But we believe that this country – like any other – has every right to screen would-be entrants. The US lacks the capability to accommodate all the people who would like to come here, as 95% of the world’s population lives elsewhere. Tending to the needs of new arrivals dissipates the resources available to promote the wellbeing of the current population. And while providing assistance to refugees, disaster victims, etc. may be the right thing to do, it generally makes more sense to provide help these people in the regions where they live than to admit them to the US and assume permanent responsibility for their fate.

In addition to limiting the number of immigrants that the US will accept, why not consider what positive attributes they should have? This isn’t a new idea; it was in vogue a century ago when decisions were being made about management of the immigration process. The current practice of focusing primarily on the needs of would-be immigrants is the aberration. Politicians base immigration policy on abstractions, Thomas Sowell, Washington Examiner,

A hundred years ago, the immigration controversies of that era were discussed in the context of innumerable facts about particular immigrant groups. [For example,] hard data on such things as which groups' children were doing well in school and which were not; which groups had high crime rates or high rates of alcoholism, and which groups were over-represented among people living on the dole. [Similar differences exist today. Thus,] immigrants from some countries are seldom on welfare but immigrants from other countries often are. Immigrants from some countries are typically people with high levels of education and skills, while immigrants from other countries seldom have much schooling or skills.

C. NATIONAL SECURITY – In the wake of the ISIS attacks in Paris, there has been much discussion about the national security risks associated with admitting Middle East refugees (from Syria or Iraq, whether currently residing there or elsewhere) into the US.

•Most of the GOP presidential candidates have blasted the administration’s military strategy in Syria and Iraq and opposed the plans for admitting refugees from this region.

•Over 30 governors, primarily Republicans, have served notice that they don’t want and/or will refuse to accept these refugees in their states.

•The House passed (289-137) HR 4038, the American SAFE (“Security Against Foreign Enemies”) Act, which would require signoffs on admissions of individual Syrian or Iraqi refugees by three administrative agencies (FBI, Department of Homeland Security, office of the Director of National Intelligence) – with monthly reports to Congress on the status and results of the screening process. House vote shows Dem distrust of Obama’s refugee plan, Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner,

We understand the Senate will take up this subject next week. It will also consider alternative proposals, including an outright ban on the admission of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for three years with very limited exceptions. Why the Terrorist Refugee Infiltration Prevention Act of 2015 is necessary, Senator Ted Cruz, Washington Times,

So far, the administration’s position has been that (a) current strategies for combating the Islamic State are sound, Americans just need to be a little more patient, (b) screening procedures for refugees are robust, and (c) the admission of Syrian, etc. refugees should proceed as planned.

•The president has commented from various locations in the course of an international trip, often lambasting Republican critics. Obama says GOP playing into hands of Islamic State with anti-refugee “hysteria,” Dave Boyer, Washington Times,

“Apparently they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said. “At first they were too scared of the press being too tough on them in the debates. Now they are scared of three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t seem so tough to me.”

•Meanwhile, the vice president contended that the screening process is rigorous and the residual risks negligible. In the face of terror, we stand as one, weekly address,

. . . refugees wait 18 to 24 months while the screening process is completed. And unlike in Europe, refugees don’t set foot in the United States until they are thoroughly vetted. Let’s also remember who the vast majority of these refugees are: women, children, orphans, survivors of torture, people desperately in need [of] medical help. To turn them away and say there is no way you can ever get here would play right into the terrorists’ hands.

It’s also been argued that would-be terrorists may be able to enter the US without undergoing the drawn-out screening process for refugees, wherefore it would achieve nothing to make the process even tougher. [Representative John] Carney: Halt intake of military-age male Syrian refugees, John Offredo, News Journal,

Senator Tom Carper: “If I happen to be a bad guy wanting to come over here and create mischief, I sure wouldn’t come as a refugee. I wouldn’t cool my jets for a year and a half trying to get through that process,” e.g., would presumably sneak in illegally or come in legally and overstay my visa.

So are critics “making a mountain out of a molehill,” or are the screening procedures for Syrian refugees inherently unsatisfactory? We tend to agree with the critics because:

FIRST, the proposed admission of Syrian/Iraqi refugees is a function of longer-term policy, not a one off proposition. If there are fated to be terrorist attacks over the next several years, the perpetrators may well be here already. By the same token, a pause in admitting these refugees would simply be a step in the right direction, as a fundamental policy shift is needed.

SECOND, the gibe about being afraid of widows and orphans is rather silly as it is obviously risky to admit people from hostile cultures who are not seeking to be assimilated. According to Senator Jeff Sessions (R, AL), the administration has “refused to respond” to requests for the immigration histories of 72 individuals who have perpetrated or attempted terrorist acts in the United States. Could it be that this information would refute claims that the current policy is safe? Obama refugee plan exposed: 72 terror cases “ignored,” Lee Hohmann,,

While it may not be the norm, women can become terrorists just as men can. Moreover, refugee children may become terrorists when they grow up.

Consider the Tsarnaev brothers (Boston bombers). Tamerlan was in his teens when he arrived; years later he was radicalized by an imam in a mosque, material on the Internet, and eventually a sojourn in Chechnya. Dzhokhar was only eight; he was apparently influenced by his older brother and in time would become the leader of the duo. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan: A profile of the Tsarnaev brothers, CBS News,

The brothers Tsarnaev had been in the United States for nearly a decade. Ethnic Chechens, they came with their family to Cambridge -- fleeing violence in their homeland for a better life in America. Immediately, 8-year-old Dzhokhar immediately seemed to just fit in. Larry Aaronson, a history teacher at the prestigious Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School -- the same school Matt Damon and Ben Affleck attended - said Dzhokhar was a great kid.

And while this particular case may be somewhat extreme, the pattern is hardly unique. Home-grown terror: American jihadist wannabes flock to ISIS-like groups in Iraq and Syria, Dan Friedman & Corky Siemazko, NY Daily News,

More than 100 young home-grown Muslims, including some from Gotham, are being trained to become an enemy within by Al Qaeda-inspired groups like ISIS operating in disintegrating Syria and Iraq, the NYPD’s terror chief estimated.

THIRD, there are inherent limits to background checks of people from war-torn areas like Syria and Iraq, where reliable evidence of identity and prior activities is scarce. Judiciary chairman: Top officials cannot assure no terrorists admitted with Syrian refugees, Caroline May,,

Last week FBI Director James Comey repeatedly conceded to the House Judiciary Committee that the government currently has insufficient information to fully vet the Syrian refugees the Obama administration seeks to admit.“I can’t sit here and offer an assurance that there is no risk associated with this,” Comey said during the hearing when pressed by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) about the safety of his constituents.

Accordingly, says Comey, the SAFE Act would effectively shut down the influx of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. FBI Director James Comey balks at refugee legislation, Evan Perez,,

D. PATH FORWARD – The president has threatened to veto the SAFE Act or any similar legislation, and his party will seek to block it in the Senate. Given widespread public concern about refugees, however, a filibuster may not be effective and it’s even possible that a veto could be overridden.

Given the margin by which the SAFE Act passed in the House, the administration will probably tone down its rhetoric and attempt to change the subject. Thus, it’s been suggested that tweaks to the visa waiver system – a subject of interest to Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) – could be a fruitful area for bipartisan cooperation. Rebuffed on refugees, Obama aims to shift focus to visas, Josh Lederman, AP,,

Feinstein and Flake hope to force anyone who has been in Iraq or Syria in the past five years to go through the traditional visa process, including an in-person interview, fingerprinting and tamper-proof passport security. Feinstein has said she plans to introduce the bill after Thanksgiving, calling the visa waiver program "the soft underbelly of our national security policies."

Another ploy would to amend the SAFE Act to ban gun and explosives purchases for anyone suspected of being a terrorist – never mind that such weapons can be acquired illegally without great difficulty. Gun rights enthusiasts will view this proposal with suspicion, and the NRA has declared its opposition. Dems hope to turn refugee debate into gun debate, Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner,

Bottom line, getting the SAFE Act enacted looks like a long shot and a more fundamental change in immigration policy is out of the question for now.


Another benefit for keeping these people in their home country is that these are the people who can aggregate to cause political change toward the values they seek in USA......i.e. Stay home and fix your country. – Retired business executive

Great discussion. – SAFE member

Among the many negative and destructive “issues” manufactured and nurtured by the left, the creation of “guilt” is one of the more insidious and damaging. Communists are experts in managing public indoctrination, either very subtly, openly and all shades in between. And the issue of immigration is one totally under that “narrative”... Obviously, it is the receiving country that needs to line up its needs and make immigration rules to fit. Issues of “refugees,” of which I was one [from Cuba], should also be tailored to the country receiving them. It is so obvious that a country without borders is not a country, it sounds silly to even talk about it... BTW, Political Correctness is, in good part, the child of guilt. - SAFE member

Hitherto, it has been my belief that SAFE was not only nonpartisan, but focused primarily on economic issues, e.g., budget deficits and the associated growth in government debt, which should be addressed by cutting spending rather than raising taxes. I fail to see the need for expressing opinions about the admission of refugees from war-torn areas of the world. – SAFE member

Response: From a US policy standpoint, it would seem rational to establish an overall immigration quota and then focus on attracting immigrants who can offer education or expertise that will enable them to quickly become economic contributors. Neither of these principles has been followed since 1970, and economic results have deteriorated during the same period. Generally slowing economic growth – declining real wages for middle class Americans – workforce participation rate rose for a time, but has now receded to the 1970s level – growing welfare & entitlement benefits (constituting some 2/3 of the government’s overall budget). Reconsideration of current immigration policies seems in line with SAFE’s agenda of promoting smaller, more focused, less costly government.

[1] The Dems need to import poverty to stuff ballot boxes.
[2] There is no way we can vet refugees from the Middle East without accurate government records.
[3] We have 90,000,000+ people out of work, so why import workers unless we want highly skilled folk?
SAFE director

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