I was all set to write something about the snowballing right-wing mass freak out over the possibility of Syrian refugees coming to America and committing terror attacks here, but The Week‘s Ryan Cooper has already written it for me (and I’m not just saying that because he cites me in his piece):
Furthermore, sheltering refugees is an obvious way to attack ISIS’s ideological legitimacy. They are really sensitive about the refugee issue, because it puts the lie to their self-image as the holy land for all Islam. When about every Muslim who possibly can is running for their lives, it tends to draw attention to the fact that ISIS is full of mass-murdering child rapists who kill far more Muslims than they do any other religious group. Conversely, assisting desperate people fleeing persecution is a powerful statement that the West will live up to its values of openness and tolerance, and not turn away tens of thousands of innocent people because we might overlook a couple extremists in their midst.
It’s also, you know, the right thing to do. Would Jesus Christ send a 3-year-old orphan back to be butchered by evil fanatics? I think not.
Refugees are a very low risk for terrorism. It is excruciatingly difficult to get refugee status — especially since the process has recently become so Byzantine and paranoid that it’s next to impossible for anyone to actually make it through the application. But here’s the bottom line: Since 9/11, the U.S. has accepted some 784,000 refugees. None have committed any acts of terrorism in the U.S. — and only three have ever been arrested for terror-related crimes, two for sending money to al Qaeda in Iraq and one whose plot was totally preposterous. Similarly, all the Paris attackers firmly identified so far have been EU nationals, not Syrian refugees.
So let’s sum up:
- ISIS hates the Syrian refugees, because they undermine the image of the “Caliphate,” so much so that it’s actually produced propaganda questioning and ridiculing them
- ISIS wants the West to turn those refugees away, for two reasons:
- Refugees, Muslim or otherwise, are not historically a risk to the United States, and that’s very unlikely to change with these Syrian refugees
- On the other hand, the US does have a history of turning refugees away, and it’s a pretty shameful one
- Leaving people crammed into refugee camps is a much bigger threat in terms of radicalization than resettling them
- During the height of the Cold War, when America was genuinely threatened by a competing nuclear power (and no, JEB, ISIS is not a threat to “Western Civilization,” give me a break), even then we didn’t let fear of “infiltration” or concerns over our ability properly vet them cause us to turn Cuban refugees away
- There’s no evidence yet that any actual Syrian refugees participated in the Paris attacks
- France is still going to let Syrian refugees in, and they’re the ones who were attacked
- There are much easier ways to get into the US, if you’re looking to cause trouble, than by getting in the very long queue for refugee status — you don’t even need a visa if you’re traveling from most EU member states, and ISIS has plenty of fighters with passports from those states
Where’s the evidence that banning refugees, or instituting some kind of profoundly un-American and logically impossible to implement religious test for letting them in, would do anything but immiserate those refugees? Yet this is where we find ourselves. 31 governors are now “refusing” (which they don’t actually have the authority to do, but whatever) to allow any Syrian refugees to be settled in their states, because when faced with a choice between our fundamental values and a very small risk of violence, our values can piss right the hell off, I guess. And when President Obama points out that it’s the toughest-talkers on the right who seem to be the most terrified by these refugees, we get treated to the spectacle of an actual United States Senator telling the President of the United States to meet him in the parking lot after school.
This is a joke, but not a funny one. My friend Ryan’s headline is right: “America needs to get a grip.”
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