Sunday, November 22, 2015

Refugees From Reality

Leave it to the GOP (and some uninformed Democrats) to make a frightening situation something to panic over. The Paris attacks were terrible. The threat of more terrorist attacks on Europe is very real. But if you want to stop terrorists from coming into the United States, tampering with the refugee system is exactly the wrong place to start.

The United States has accepted about 70,00 refugees into this country since 2009.  And there's a lengthy process. One-third of them were from countries that, on first glance, might supply potential terrorists. How many of these refugees turned out to be terrorists or involved in potential terrorist plots? None.  Further, if ISIS or any other group wanted to send potential terrorists to the United States, why would they choose a process that could take up to two years? It makes no sense. Which is why, I'm sure, the Republicans are pursuing legislation that would affect the refugee program.

It would be far easier for a potential bomber to come in as a tourist. Or as a worker who doesn't need a visa. Or as a student.  But of course, no politician wants to shut down tourism or interfere with students who want to come to the U.S. to study or with someone who will do a job that an American won't or can't (including high tech jobs that require math, which seems to be another GOP weakness). That would be an economic catastrophe. So instead, they're going after the one program that vets all applicants over a specified period of time as their target.

Even better, Donald Trump leads the GOP with a policy of building a very high wall on the Mexican border to stop the hordes who are coming to the United States. The truth is that more people are leaving the US for Mexico than are trying to come to this country.  The people who really want to come in, the drug smugglers, have built sophisticated tunnels. A wall won't stop them.

President Obama is exactly right to veto any legislation that is built on fear, xenophobia and ignorance, which the right seems to think will win it an election next year. Hillary Clinton has proposed a specific, pragmatic policy for dealing with ISIS that goes beyond mere rhetoric and fearful slogans. It's a policy that even conservatives view as thoughtful and worth considering.

Fear has been the coin of the realm for the Republican Party since 2001. They've run on a platform that says only they can keep us safe and I'm sure they'll plug that exhausted line until November. What they need to do is to detail a plan for actually fighting ISIS both militarily and diplomatically with our allies. It will take thought and political will rather than blame. So far, I haven't heard anything that gives me confidence in their ability to confront the threat.

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