Retired Refugee Administrator Calls for Syrian Refugee Moratorium

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Retired Refugee Administrator Calls for Syrian Refugee Moratorium

For most of my adult life, I have worked with refugees both overseas and in the US. So, I DO understand the plight of refugees and the challenges of successfully resettling them in their new American homeland.

That said, I just read a lengthy article in the local newspaper in which the mayor and the local refugee resettlement director discounted the Syrian refugee threat by sweepingly equating the reaction of those of us with legitimate concerns about the flawed vetting process of Syrian refugees with "knee-jerk reactions of politicians". I was understandably irked. The very idea of my being a politician is offensive. But, at least my colleagues and I weren't characterized as bigots, racists, xenophobes or Islamophobes. Very surprising, indeed.

In the article, the local director was quoted as saying that "all refugees go through a rigorous review process before being allowed to come to the U.S." He went on to say that "we shouldn't allow terrorists and criminals to dictate changes to our great tradition of welcoming the stranger", pointing out that local resettlement agencies "can't pick and choose whom to accept."

That last string of quotes smacked of talking points--not reasoned arguments--for permitting the influx of inadequately vetted Syrian refugees into our community. I immediately questioned that if the threat of "terrorists and criminals" should not dictate how we tackle the question of welcoming potential terrorists and criminals into our midst, then what exactly should dictate whom we permit to resettle next door to us.

His also stating that local agencies "can't pick and choose whom to accept" is, for the most part, false. In the case of refugees entering to join family members already here, then, yes, the agency is expected to accept them into our community; however, so-called "free cases", or those refugees without anchor relatives already in place in the community, may be rejected for resettlement by the local agency. Bear that mind.

He went on by asserting that "Syrians coming to the US will likely come through an orderly process from refugee camps," again adding that "it is a very secure process." Likely? Not reassuring.

Obviously he has ignored or entirely discounted the remarks of our security agency heads who have consistently and unambiguously warned about the flawed vetting process of Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees.

Since I'm sure the local resettlement program has come under considerable pressure of late, and not wanting to pile on, I contacted an old colleague and friend at the national refugee resettlement agency with which the local agency is affiliated.

I explained that local community groups with whom I am closely affiliated have understandable concerns about the resettlement of Syrian refugees in our community, and went on to cite the quotes of the local director which appeared in the newspaper.

His first reaction was that it was not true that the local agency cannot reject refugees. Those who are not arriving to join family members already resettled in the community may be rejected by the local agency. This would certainly describe all the Syrian refugees earmarked for resettlement in this community. 

Throughout the cordial conversation--we hadn't spoken for years--I sensed a inclination on his part to adroitly skirt the potential threat posed by the resettlement of Syrian refugees. When queried about the inadequate vetting process for Syrian refugees in particular, he seemed unaware of the DIA's, FBI's and DOD's warnings about the absence of an adequate database to properly vet these refugees. Has there been a news blackout?

He emailed me an updated version of the 13-step vetting process currently in use, and seemed convinced that the process was adequate. I pointed out that the vetting process is fine as it applies to non-Middle Eastern refugee groups, but that we're talking about Islamic refugees, some of whom could well be ISIS or Al Quaida infiltrators; that it only took 8 radical Islamists to slaughter 129 people in Paris. He gingerly acknowledged this threat, but quickly went on to point out the obvious: these refugees have been in camps for up to 4 years and are badly in need of help; that after such a prolonged period of time "one would think" that [even without a database with which to work] that the wheat could be effectively separated from the chaff. 

I opined that merely hoping that such is the case is one thing, but asked if on that hope alone were we willing to risk a terrorist attack which might otherwise have been averted. He again gently agreed, but kept returning to the genuine suffering of the bulk of Syrian refugees. That was his fallback position throughout the conversation. He could never really bring himself to fully grapple with the real threat of improperly vetted Syrian refugees. For him, compassion alone trumped caution.

We both worked in refugee camps in Southeast Asia and were both involved in interviewing and otherwise screening SEA refugees before they were finally approved for entry into the US. Clearly, these were entirely different refugee groups--no terrorist inclinations among them at all. Thus, the vetting process for SEA refugees proved to be adequate and no warnings from our security agencies about the vetting process were necessarily forthcoming.

We agreed that the suffering Syrian refugees needed help, but we couldn't agree that a moratorium on the resettlement of Syrian refugees was the responsible course of action to take.

We then spoke about the difficulty we all had with smoothly resettling Somalian refugees in the past, but he couldn't recall but two Somalians being arrested for terrorist related activities after arrival. I reminded him of a substantial number of Somalian refugees who had been resettled in Minnesota who had linked up with ISIS; that although they are likely under close surveillance by the U.S. government they are still free and their legal status here unchanged. In short, I reminded him that they remained a serious potential terrorist threat to the homeland. Again he agreed, but was indisposed to grasp the true nature of the threat. Like so many companies and organizations, it is difficult for resettlement agencies, local or national, to see things as they really are, in this case to clearly see the threat attending a flawed vetting process. As always, agency and organization culture and those inevitable talking points pretty much dictate an employee's outlook and opinions. So, while his stance was unsurprising, when weighing the validity of refugee program commentary, from the start we must all bear carefully in mind this ingrained myopia.

Possible remedy: if a refugee is a "Free Case" (with no familial US ties), the local resettlement agency CAN, in fact, say no. Thus, the remedy for those of us who are pushing for a moratorium  on the resettlement of Syrian refugees may be to pressure the local resettlement agency to reject Free Syrian cases. In most communities without Syrian refugees already in place, such an effort would most certainly stop the influx. Thus, a moratorium can be accomplished on the local level.

With this in mind, I drafted the following editorial for local consumption. The newspaper's being a seriously liberal newspaper, who can say if it will be published:

"Dear Editor:

Though ISIS has dubbed the Islamist terrorist attack on Paris as but the
“first of the storm”, Pres. Obama continues to mystifyingly describe “global
warming”, coal and CO2 as THE most profound threats we face as a nation; worse,
he continues to vigorously push for the entrance of thousands of inadequately
vetted Syrian “refugees” into our homeland.
Despite the existential threat of Islamic terrorism, and warnings against such a
Syrian influx by our own security agencies, the Administration remains
recklessly determined to resettle these refugees in our communities.
I've worked with refugees both here and abroad for most of my adult life, so no
one can honestly discount my compassion when it comes to helping suffering
refugees; however, until our security agencies verify that an adequate vetting
process is in place a moratorium on the resettlement of Syrian “refugees” is a
no-brainer.  Anything less would be terribly irresponsible.
Moving past empty-headed political correctness, delusional ideology and faux
compassion, let’s properly safeguard our homeland and families from the menace
of radical Islamic terrorism

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LIGHTER SIDE

 

Political Cartoons by AF Branco

Political Cartoons by Tom StiglichPolitical Cartoons by AF Branco

ALERT ALERT

Fact Check:   'Joe Biden Claims ‘We Didn’t Lock People Up In Cages’

CLAIM: Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed, on immigration: “We didn’t lock people up in cages.”

VERDICT: FALSE. The “cages” were built by the Obama-Biden administration.

Univision moderator Jorge Ramos asked Biden at the third Democrat debate at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, why Latinos should trust him after the Obama administration continued deporting “undocumented immigrants.”

Biden claimed that the Obama administration’s policies were more humane than those of President Donald Trump: “We didn’t lock people up in cages,” he said.

In fact, the “cages” were built by the Obama administration to deal with a surge of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border illegally in 2014.

Originally, the Obama administration was “warehousing” children — literally — in overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities. Breitbart News broke the story of the surge, which was partly triggered by Obama’s policy of allowing illegal alien children who entered the country as minors to stay in the country (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA).

Above image credit: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File

The above photo was published by the Associated Press in June 2014, and the photo below is of Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, touring a Border Patrol facility with “cages.”


Above: Border Patrol officers escort Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Gov. Jan Brewer through the department’s Nogales processing facility for immigrant children. (Photo courtesy Barry Bahler/Department of Homeland Security)

The “cages” are chain-link enclosures in Border Patrol processing facilities that are meant to protect children from adults in custody. They are not permanent accommodations.

In mid-2018, as the Trump administration began enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy that stopped the “catch-and-release” policy of letting illegal aliens go after they were arrested. Detaining adults and children meant that children had to be processed separately; the enclosures prevented adults from harming children.

As Breitbart News reported at the time, children were not housed in “cages.” They were processed and then taken to shelters, where they were given medical care, toiletries, education, recreation, and counseling, and where staff attempted to find relatives or sponsors to whom they could be released.

Democrats began tweeting images of “kids in cages” to condemn the Trump administration. Journalists, too, shared those images.

One problem: they were taken during the Obama administration.

Public outrage at the images led President Trump to end the policy, and require families to be detained together.

Democrats keep repeating the mistake, however: in July, they had to delete a tweet that used an image from the Obama era and cited the “inhumane treatment” of children by the Trump administration.

Republicans argue that not detaining illegal aliens is actually the cruel policy, because it encourages migrants to undertake a dangerous journey, often guided by cartels and smugglers.

As Breitbart News’ Alana Mastrangelo noted recently:

But what’s worse than “cages,” however, are reports of migrant children also being handed over to human traffickers during the Obama administration — while Biden was vice president — according to the New York Times. Between October 2013 and July 2015 alone, nearly 80,000 unaccompanied children from Central American countries were detained by U.S. authorities.

It remains unclear how many of the tens of thousands of children were handed over to human traffickers — including sex traffickers — during that span of nearly two years, as those cases are reportedly not tracked.

“Others were ransomed by the very smugglers to whom their families paid thousands of dollars to sneak them into the United States,” reported the New York Times in 2015, during Obama’s presidency and Biden’s vice presidency. “Some lost limbs during the journey or found themselves sold into sexual slavery.”

Biden told voters in South Carolina last month that he would close all border detention facilities, guaranteeing that the migrant flow would continue.

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