This Is How Some Countries Greet Syrian Refugees Fleeing From ISIS


NOVEMBER 18, 2015


This is yesterday’s front page of the Scottish newspaper The National, as the first wave of Syrian refugees arrived in Glasgow.  The warm greeting that the Scottish people have been extending to those fleeing the terrorism of ISIS stands in stark contrast to the anti-refugee xenophobia that has been let loose in some political quarters by U.S. politicians.

In the past few days, governors of 26 states — 25 Republicans and 1 Democrat (NH Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is locked in a tight US Senate campaign against GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte) — have declared that they intend to block any Syrian refugees from entering their states.  The fact that they have no power to do so — that power is reserved solely on the Federal level — hasn’t stopped them from grandstanding and stirring up fear among their voter base.

Unfortunately, this fear-mongering was even more pronounced among the GOP Presidential field, as they began to conflate the ISIS attacks in Paris with the Syrian refugee issue.  Yes, Syria is a hotbed of ISIS activity, but these attackers weren’t refugees, as all were born in either Belgium or France.  Ignoring that fact, their rhetoric has been ginned up to almost hysteric levels.

Donald Trump:  The United States will have “absolutely no choice” but to close down some mosques “where bad things are happening.”

Ted Cruz:  He is open to admitting refugees from Syria but only Christian refugees, explaining “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.”  (***cough***Timothy McVeigh***cough)

Even Jeb! wanted in on the action:  “I think our focus ought to be on the Christians who have no place in Syria anymore.”  (Syria is about 10% Christian.)

Bobby Jindal (who did the world a favor by dropping out of the GOP race yesterday) issued an executive order to block resettlement of Syrian refugees in Louisiana.  (Again, unconstitutional.)

But the best was Chris Christie, who wants no Syrian refugees in New Jersey at all:  “I don’t think that orphans under 5 should be admitted at this point.”

President Obama responded yesterday from Manila:  “We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.  I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate.”

Still, he couldn’t help but tweak the GOP governors and candidates’ attacks:  “Apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion. First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates.  Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans.  That doesn’t sound very tough to me.”
Of course, it’s not all that simple.  Unlike countries in Europe that have porous borders, the United States has a rigorous set of hoops through which any refugee must jump before they are granted admittance.  Obama’s GOP critics says that the rules for entry are too lax.  To better judge whether that’s true, the website Daily Kos today detailed just what those standards are:

Refugees apply for resettlement at American embassies or through the United Nations. If they pass that first hurdle, they are screened by outposts of the Department of State all over the world. They undergo investigations of their biography and identity; FBI biometric checks of their fingerprints and photographs; in-person interviews by Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings as well as investigations by the National Counter-terrorism Centre and by American and international intelligence agencies. The process may take as long as three years, sometimes longer. No other person entering America is subjected to such a level of scrutiny.

Too lax?  Well, you can decide for yourself.

Can someone who means harm to the United States pose as a Syrian refugee and somehow make it through this system?  Given what any refugee has to go through to get here, it is extremely unlikely, but no one can guarantee it is 100% perfect.  This is a dangerous time in the world, and there’s no place for complacency.  We must be vigilant, but vigilance is different from using fear tactics to further a political agenda.

Yes, it is imperative that we do all that we can to protect America.  But one of the sacred tenets of our country is welcoming those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  We’ve got some huddled masses yearning for freedom coming our way.  Are we really going to slam the door in their face?