Friday, September 30, 2016
Should we be scared of Syrians moving to Texas?
Whenever Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. Ted Cruz or presidential nominee Donald Trump warns of the dangers of admitting Syrian refugees into Texas and the United States, a curious thing happens to me.
I hear in my head the national anthem.
A swell of patriotism?
No, a clang of irony. I’ll explain in a bit.
Here are some sound bites that cue the music:
Gov. Abbott: “Despite multiple requests by the state of Texas, the federal government lacks the capability or the will to distinguish the dangerous from the harmless, and Texas will not be an accomplice to such dereliction of duty to the American people.”
Sen. Cruz: “Congress should act to prevent Americans who have traveled abroad for training from returning here, and to stop the flow of refugees from hotbeds of terrorism in the Middle East that President Obama is determined to bring to our country.”
And Donald Trump: “Altogether, under the Clinton plan, you’d be admitting hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East with no system to vet them, or to prevent the radicalization of their children.”
Gov. Abbott last November responded to terrorist attacks in Paris by declaring that Syrian refugees would no longer be allowed to move to Texas for fear they weren’t being properly screened.
The federal government made clear it would simply bypass state government and give resettlement money directly to the church groups and nonprofits that do great work in helping refugees find their place in American society.
Attorney General Ken Paxton sued but a federal judge squelched it.
Paxton has appealed.
Now Abbott has given the feds an ultimatum that Texas will withdraw from the process in January unless the feds jump through Texas-designed hoops.
Meanwhile the Syrians keep coming, and will continue to do so in January.
So should we be scared?
The conservative Heritage Foundation looked at the screening process for Syrians, which is tougher than for any other nation.
It begins with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recommending candidates for resettlement in the United States.
Of about 23,000 Syrians recommended by the end of last year, about 2,000 have been accepted.
That comes after a process that lasts 18 months to two years.
It involves screening by more than a dozen U.S. and international agencies, plus intensive interviews.
So far, not a single Iranian has been arrested for terrorist activities here, though two Iraqis in Kentucky were.
“It is worth noting,” says the Heritage Foundation, “that these are the only two individuals who slipped through the screening process.”
It added that the U.S. “has made constant improvements to the program.”
Why so few?
Well just possibly because any terrorist plants who could fool this system could likely fool our normal visa system in less than 18 months to two years.
What’s more, only 2 percent of refugees admitted to the United States are single men of military age.
No wonder religious groups and nonprofits have stood up to pressure from state agencies to shut down their refugee programs.
They know these people to be some of the world’s most vulnerable people, mainly families escaping the horrors of the Syrian civil war and life under the likes of Assad or the Islamic State.
Eight Protestant leaders wrote in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram this week: “In the face of violence, we will show moral courage and increase our welcome for individuals fleeing persecution.”
Nearly every religious group in Texas has urged Abbott to reverse himself.
Among them: Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Unitarians, Baptists, Episcopalians and 43 Texas rabbis.
That’s right: Rabbis are not as afraid of Muslim refugees as some of our tough-sounding politicians are, politicians who often proclaim their faith.
Which takes me back to the Star Spangled Banner.
The politicians give an ironic note to the anthem’s rousing close: “And the home of the brave.”
The rest of us can bring it back on key.