National Review Online, September 11, 2015
The White House announced that it plans to admit 10,000 Syrians next year through the refugee resettlement program, on top of the 1,500 or so we've already admitted. But the number could go much higher, since the president claims the right to "parole" into the United States anyone he wants, in any number he wants, for any reason he wants. As Senator Grassley put it this week after being informed by Secretary of State Kerry of Obama's 2016 refugee edict:
But when pressed, the administration indicated that they were considering opening the floodgates and using emergency authority to go above what they proposed to Congress in today's consultation. The administration also has not ruled out potentially paroling thousands of Syrians into the United States.
Here's why we shouldn't be resettling any more than a handful of Syrians:
Cost. Reihan yesterday at a panel discussion cited a study that found caring for a refugee resettled in Norway costs 25 times more than in the Middle East. In the U.S., such costs are borne almost entirely by the taxpayers of the local communities where the State Department dumps its refugees (without even informing the local authorities). Even the resettlement groups and local "sponsors," such as churches, only assume responsibility for their costs for several months, until they're signed up for welfare; in fact, the main function of "sponsors" is to get refugees signed up for welfare. That's why more than 90% of recent Middle Eastern refugees are on welfare. Concern over costs seems to be the basis of a bill offered by Representative Brian Babin (R-Texas) to suspend refugee resettlement until the GAO thoroughly studies its costs.
Return. Providing for refugees in the region they're from is not only hugely less expensive (thus enabling us to deliver concrete assistance to many, many more people), but the goal in any refugee situation should be to care for the displaced people until they can return home. And they're much more likely to do that if they're in refugee camps nearby; this is why Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran returned home, while few of those who moved to the West did. And it takes real gall even to suggest resettlement in a distant land when the rich, empty oil states of the Gulf refuse to take any of their kin.
Safety. But on this day, of all days, it's important to note that refugees from the Islamic world cannot be properly vetted. I don't mean only that the Obama administration has a frivolous approach to "violent extremists," or that the Department of Homeland Security hasn't shown itself especially competent in this regard. Rather, it is impossible to weed out jihadists from a refugee flow. Who are we going to check with, the Damascus police department? It's not like any document claiming to be from Syria can be relied on; fake Syrian passports, for instance, are in great demand.
James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, acknowledged the problem the other day, noting that "We don't obviously put it past the likes of ISIL to infiltrate operatives among these refugees." But even he was overly optimistic, claiming that the U.S. has a "pretty aggressive" system of background checks before admitting refugees. I have no doubt our people are doing their best, but James Bond and Superman could team up to do the background checks and they'd still fail, given the utter lack of any information to go on.
The Boston Marathon bombers were actually investigated by the FBI, which sent agents to interview acquaintances, and they still didn't conclude they were jihadists. An Uzbek refugee was convicted on terrorism charges last month. The community of Somali refugees resettled in Minnesota has been a fertile source for terrorist recruitment. Two al Qaeda terrorists from Iraq were resettled as refugees in Kentucky. In the words of ABC News, "US May Have Let 'Dozens' of Terrorists Into Country As Refugees".
Of course, one way of addressing the security concerns would be to resettle only Christians from Syria, which some countries are considering. Even that would entail careful scrutiny to make sure they weren't Muslims who studied "Christianity for Dummies" just to pass the test. But I'll wash the car of everybody reading this post if the Obama administration actually does that.
Ordinary immigration enforcement could have stopped many, if not most, of the foreign jihadists we've encountered in the U.S. over the past twenty-plus years; as National Review reported, not one of the wicked men who killed thousands 14 years ago today should have been granted a visa, even on normal, non-security grounds.
But there is no level of scrutiny that can effectively screen out terrorists in a large flow of Muslim refugees from the Middle East. The only answer is to just say no.