Friday, December 4, 2015

Despite Facts, House Republicans Reject Humanitarianism In Favor Of Anti-Refugee Legislation

The Paris terrorist attacks prompted House Republicans to pass legislation restricting admission of Iraqi and Syrian refugees to the United States. They are concerned that vetting procedures are not strong enough to prevent ISIS terrorist from infiltrating the United States as Syrian refugees. The legislation requires supplemental certifications and background investigations — in addition to the comprehensive vetting that is currently in place — be completed prior to admission of refugees from the region. In reality, it essentially closes the door on new Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

Moreover, thirty-one governors say they will not allow Syrian refugees to settle in their states. Among these states, all but one has a Republican governor.

The Senate may take up the bill. But if it passes, President Obama has pledged to veto the legislation. The House would likely override Obama’s veto because Republicans would need no more than 290 votes, which is one more vote needed than they had in the first round of voting.

The fact is that the Paris attackers were not refugees from Syria. Nevertheless, Republicans and some Democrats find it necessary to hold it against the men, women, and children who are looking for a safe haven from terrorism themselves.

Just as disappointing are the unacceptable number of Americans who use hateful language against all Muslims. They, of course, support the legislation. Motivated by fear, they are buying the Republican argument and disregarding America’s time-honored standards of humanitarian values.

Many may believe that refugees arrive much the same way as they do in Europe. But Iraqi and Syrian refugees applying for refugee status in the United States come from refugee centers located in Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. They do not arrive in the United States as they do in Europe.

A good description of refugee processing is provided in a letter sent to governors across the country by Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson outlining the vetting and resettlement process in order to be granted refugee status in the United States.

The resettlement process begins when refugees enter the United States. It involves public and private partnerships, according to Bill Frelick, refugee rights program director for Human Rights Watch.

Volunteers from local refugee resettlement agencies greet new refugees at the airport. They take new refugees to the grocery store. Help them get orientated. Case managers find out what skills new refugees have in order to find a job, what education they need to get a job, and what their particular needs are. The agencies have a strong incentive to make sure refugees become independent, support themselves, contribute to the community, and are well integrated into the United States as soon as possible. Federally funded transitional assistance helps with services during the refugees first month in country. Incentives and matching grants, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) also provide assistance in their resettlement.

President Obama says the legislation would “provide no meaningful additional security.” That’s because the current refugee process has been in place since Vietnam and has proven to be reliable, effective, and has worked remarkably well. Supplemental certifications and background investigations are not necessary. The Republican bill has more to do with political posturing than it does with just being the right thing to do.

Copyright © 2015 Horatio Green