I asked for a single reasonable, rational explanation of Democratic/progressive enthusiasm for allowing Syrian refugees, including an unknown number of potential terrorists, to enter and reside in the United States. I cited the pathetic attempts at such arguments made by various officials, candidates for President, and journalists. What has come in from comments so far does not meet my standard of reasonable or persuasive, and frankly deepens the mystery of why liberal leanings force people to take such positions. One of the most revealing articles of the liberal mindset came from extreme-left journalist Kevin Drum, writing on the web site of the “by any means necessary” leftist publication Mother Jones. He wrote:
“Here’s the thing: to the average person, it seems perfectly reasonable to be suspicious of admitting Syrian refugees to the country. We know that ISIS would like to attack the US. We know that ISIS probably has the wherewithal to infiltrate a few of its people into the flood of refugees. And most voters have no idea how easy it is to get past US screening. They probably figure it’s pretty easy.
So to them it doesn’t seem xenophobic or crazy to call for an end to accepting Syrian refugees. It seems like simple common sense. After all, things changed after Paris.
Mocking Republicans over this—as liberals spent much of yesterday doing on my Twitter stream—seems absurdly out of touch to a lot of people. Not just wingnut tea partiers, either, but plenty of ordinary centrists too. It makes them wonder if Democrats seriously see no problem here. Do they care at all about national security? Are they really that detached from reality?
The liberal response to this should be far more measured. We should support tight screening. Never mind that screening is already pretty tight. We should highlight the fact that we’re accepting a pretty modest number of refugees. In general, we should act like this is a legitimate thing to be concerned about and then work from there….”
How damning and obnoxious. Drum never actually explains why the concern aren’t legitimate; he just condescendingly assumes that his compatriots understand they just are, because…why? Obama, who has been wrong about just about everything, says so, I suppose. Or because progressives are just enlightened. Maybe because Democrats believe open borders are a great thing, because the minority migrants, legal or illegal, mean more votes. I have no idea why he is so smugly superior, but he gives only one substantive argument: “Never mind that screening is already pretty tight.”
Oh is it now? From that far-right conservative, Republican wacko xenophobic newspaper, the Washington Post:
While they say U.S. security measures are much better than in the past, vetting Syrian refugees poses a quandary: How do you screen people from a war-torn country that has few criminal and terrorist databases to check?
The United States has resettled more than 3 million refugees since the mid-1970s, and the screening system in the post-9/11 era includes multiple background checks, screenings against FBI and other databases and an in-person interview. Debate over the program has intensified since the deadly terrorist strikes in Paris blamed on the Islamic State, though each attacker identified so far whose nationality has been confirmed has been found to be a European national, not part of the wave of refugees from Syria.
“I don’t, obviously, put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees, so that’s a huge concern of ours,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said at a security industry conference in September, using another name for the Islamic State. He added that the government has “a pretty aggressive program” for screening refugees but that he is less confident about European nations.
FBI Director James Comey added in congressional testimony last month that “a number of people who were of serious concern” slipped through the screening of Iraq War refugees, including two arrested on terrorism-related charges. “There’s no doubt that was the product of a less than excellent vetting,” he said.
Although Comey said the process has since “improved dramatically,” Syrian refugees will be even harder to check because, unlike in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have not been on the ground collecting information on the local population. “If we don’t know much about somebody, there won’t be anything in our data,” he said. “I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”
Then the story follows with an extensive description of what screening is supposed to be, an was with Iraqi refugees—none of which appears to be relevant to the reality of screening the Syrian. The story concludes:
But one of the senior administration officials at Tuesday’s briefing acknowledged the limitations inherent in screening refugees from Syria, where it’s very difficult to determine something as basic as an applicant’s criminal history.
“We do the best with what we have,” the official said. “We talk to people about what their criminal histories are, and we hear about that. That’s pretty much where we are.”
Talk to people about what their criminal histories are. Yup, nothing to worry about. Only xenophobes and racists would see any deficiencies or risks here. Let’s just pretend to respect what they say; they can’t stop it anyway.
Here is Beth’s Comment of the Day on the post, An Ethics Mystery: Why Can’t Democrats Be Honest Or Responsible Regarding The Syrian Refugees??
Yes, I’ll be back at the end.
And still ticked off.
But we make trade-offs every day. Every time we let out an inmate, we know that is 50% likely that he/she will end up in jail — perhaps for a violent crime. But we do it. We know that criminals breed more criminals, but we don’t sterilize them, because that violates our belief system. We also don’t sterilize (at least not anymore) the indigent, the mentally ill, children with Down’s, and young girls who are promiscuous. We don’t do this because — even though it’s statistically more likely that many of these children will become a drain on society and/or commit violent crimes –because it violates our values. We allow in legal immigrants from Russia and Italy even though it is statistically more likely that they will join Russian and Italian mobs over the general population. We legally let in Latino immigrants even though it is more likely that their male children will join MS-13 over the general population. We allow gun sales and have not gutted the Second Amendment even though it is likely that that there will be a certain number of gun deaths every day.
This is not emotion — this is fact. Hell, it wouldn’t be hard for a programmer to create an algorithim to tell us exactly what to predict. It is possible that we actually did intern actual or would-be Japanese spies during WWII.
But that is the risk that we take to live in a country that has served as a melting pot for immigrants for its entire existence. We judge people at the individual level — not the group level. For each wave of immigrants and/or refugees that have come into our country, we first responded with fear (“Irish need not apply.” Hell, Georgia was a penal colony!) Then they assimilated and became American citizens. Why do we keep repeating past mistakes?
I like this comment because Beth makes about the only semi-rational, as opposed to reflex, mindless, and partisan, argument available as well as the argument can be made. The argument is that we accept similar risks routinely and also accept the consequences of them, and this one is no different.
Obviously, I think it is different. Prisoners serve their time and must be released, though we know a certain number of them are still anti-social and dangerous. They are citizens, however; we don’t have pre-crime statutes, and the Constitution gives us no choice but to hold our breath and give them a chance. Any immigrant poses a risk, but we do vet and screen legal immigrants to minimize the risk. Many of Beth’s compatriots would gut the Second Amendment, and argue that it would be a fair trade off to take gun rights away from all Americans if it saved the life of, as the President once said, “a single child.”
This was not her strongest point.
The reason past practices can’t be used to work out this problem is that mass terrorism is a new threat, and only became a consideration after 3000 innocent U.S. citizens died on September 11, 2001. All of a sudden, a century of reasonable trade-offs no longer made sense or were tolerable. We decided long ago that it was more important to allow citizens open access to their elected officials’ offices, and to their government, than to prevent a rare tragedy with maximize security. I once was able to walk up to the door of my Congressman and knock. Suddenly, after the Twin Towers fell, you couldn’t even drive by the White House, and today every government building is blocked by concrete pillars. I get frisked, wanded and gated before I can teach legal ethics in the Ronald Reagan Building.
The President has some gall mocking Republicans who are genuinely concerned about ISIS, which has been on a rampage, by saying that they are afraid of widows and orphans. His TSA manhandles, wands and searches little children and octogenarians in wheel chairs before they can get on an airplane, on the infinitesimal chance that they will try to bring it down. Yesterday, a TSA agent took a Buzz Lightyear toy, a souvenir from Disneyland, from a five -year-old boy and destroyed it as a possible threat.
Fourteen years ago, a fool tried to blow up a plane using his shoe. Since then, I and millions of other travelers have had to take off our shoes, wander in stocking feet through security, and put them on again, all to prevent any possibility of this (unsuccessful) terrorist attack from occurring again. American citizens are being inconvenienced and humiliated to eliminate this imperceptible risk, and others.
These are the standards of the Obama administration, the standards that we have had hammered into our consciousness as responsible and necessary, standards that we are instructed to accept and cooperate with completely, or risk criminal penalties. Why is the trade-off of our personal liberties and the dignity of American citizens deemed justified to avert the vanishing-point level risk of a shoe-bombing or a child-smuggled weapon, yet Americans insisting on the same thorough vetting and screening for higher risk refugees as other refugees have been subjected to are mocked as cowardly, hysterical, and xenophobic?
Meanwhile, every official and Democratic advocate for the Syrians says in public that there must be effective screening procedures, and assure us that there will be, while behind the scenes officials admit that “We talk to people about what their criminal histories are, and we hear about that. That’s pretty much where we are.”
There is no honesty, transparency or consistency in the pro-Syrian arguments, from either those we have to trust to implement the alleged safeguards, nor their apparently blind supporters. There is no reason to trust their judgments about what trade-offs are reasonable.