One of my staff accompanied me to yesterday's House immigration subcommittee hearing on Syrian refugee resettlement and she said afterwards, "We didn't learn anything." Never having attended a congressional hearing, she was surprised by this.
The Democrats followed the president's lead in dismissing concerns about security. I think one or another of them (Lofgren, Gutierrez, and Conyers, plus their witness, the head of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) ended up ticking off every cliché I'd expected: the "wrong side of history," the Holocaust, the SS St. Louis, and the internment of the Japanese. (I don't think slavery came up.)
The Republicans made more pertinent points. One question struck me in particular: after the State Department and USCIS officials said how effective their interviews of refugees were in exposing liars, Goodlatte asked that, if that were so, how come there are five million illegal aliens who were interviewed before they got their visas? They'd all promised to return home when their authorized time here expired, and obviously their lies were not exposed during their visa interviews. He didn't get a real answer.
My only concern about the hearing was that its focus just on Syrian refugees might have been misunderstood as suggesting that they were the only area of concern regarding security. (Not to mention the broader issue of Muslim immigrant enclaves serving as the sea within which the terrorist fish can swim, as Mao might have said.) In truth, we have no way of vetting people from any of the failed states of the Islamic world, whether Somalia or Libya or Yemen or Afghanistan or Iraq. The latter two actually we have more intelligence on, having ruled them for a number of years, but even that information is of limited use; we admitted two Iraqis as refugees who, we only discovered later, had been IED makers back in Iraq. And the FBI fears dozens more such terrorists have been admitted as refugees.
Oh, and we resettled nearly 9,000 Somali refugees last year.
One last point: Contrast Obama's handling of this issue with how Bill Clinton would likely have reacted. Clinton would have suspended resettlement for, say, 90 days while it was "reassessed," giving congressmen of both parties something to tell their constituents, then quietly restarted admissions once people's attention moved on to the next thing. The result would have been the same (because the Republican Congress isn't going to do anything meaningful), but without the political damage Obama and the Democrats have sustained. Heck, even Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones is warning that "Liberals Should Knock Off the Mockery Over Calls to Limit Syrian Refugees". But the president and his apostles think they're on the winning side of history, and the public be damned. Maybe we should be thankful they're so inept.
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