As I write this, media sources are reporting the arrest of four plotters by police in Ankara, Turkey, at about midnight on Saturday, April 30. Turkish police and security authorities say the arrests were in the nick of time because the plotters, members or supporters of the terrorist group Islamic State, were planning to attack during May Day celebrations in the city the very next day. The four have been identified as Syrians residing in Ankara for "a period of time". Additional details will no doubt be forthcoming.
For readers of this blog, and indeed for the American public at large, the relevant point is that Syrians who have removed themselves from the immediate conflict zone into safe regions such as Turkey have once again shown themselves to be something other than "refugees fleeing violence" by their involvement in prior attacks and thwarted attacks in the places that have provided them safe haven: Turkey, Europe, and elsewhere. That the jihadists have managed to intermingle so thoroughly with those truly in need of refuge is troubling in the extreme.
Then there is the question of many others who may not be outright terrorists, but whose motives and bonafides are open to question even as they flock across international borders, legally or otherwise, under the auspices of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other international organizations. For instance, Breitbart.com recently carried a story derived from the German newspaper Bild. Photojournalist Daniel Etter was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his picture of the Majids, an Iraqi migrant family arriving on the shores of Greece, the father crying with joy. The father was later interviewed by BBC and showered praise on Angela Merkel for saving this family of Sunni Muslims from having to live under the persecution of majority-Shiite Iraq. Having won the prize, Etter tried to track down the family in Germany, where they had been accepted, to share the happy news with them. He searched in vain. After considerable effort, enterprising Bild reporters discovered that all but one son had returned to Iraq and were living in the city of Erbil; the son who remained was in trouble with authorities for having beaten up an Afghan refugee claimant, for which he was thrown out of the government-sponsored refugee camp where he had been living.
All of this brings us to the crucial issue of the wisdom of admitting Syrian refugees to the United States. CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian and Senior Researcher Nayla Rush have both recently written about U.S. State Department and UNHCR efforts to find enterprising ways to short-circuit the "laborious" process of selecting and screening Syrian refugees for admission to the United States. (see here and here).
The House Judiciary Committee has been grappling with various provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act relating to refugees and asylees through the introduction of various bills, which have yet to actually be voted upon by the full chamber, let alone the Senate. Let us hope that our lawmakers are paying close attention to these misguided and duplicitous efforts that represent deeply disturbing, but official, attempts to subvert both international and domestic laws that make abundantly clear the mechanisms by which individuals may seek refuge, and that most unambiguously do not include "alternative pathways." Maybe it's time to seal up those cracks in the law too.