Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

Let’s Get Past the Refugee Rhetoric and Look at the Facts

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Originally published at Every Joe

The flame wars of this past week lend themselves to the assertion that nothing kills civility like the confluence of terrorism and immigration. The level of hysterical shrieking and moral posturing on all sides of the debate around how to treat refugees in the wake of mounting concerns about terrorism has reached peak mob rule. We’ve been treated to sweeping pronouncements that anyone seeking to stop – or even just pause – the resettlement of displaced Middle Easterners are xenophobic bigots. Arguably more absurd are the neo-fascist calls to shut down mosques and place Muslims in camps, reminiscent of Franklin Roosevelt’s racial-roundup that imprisoned Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Instead of breathlessly playing into this parade of the horribles, everyone concerned about the refugee issue would do well to take a deep breath and keep an open mind as the facts unfold. If the world as viewed through social media is any indication, it seems as though we genuinely need to remember that well-meaning people can diverge, even on highly emotional and complicated issues, without being evil. If we can at least agree on that basic premise, it might be possible to consider two of the most difficult issues we face politically in a rational light.

Immigration was already a hot button issue within the 2016 presidential campaign before the attacks in Paris tied it much more closely with concerns around terrorism. Virtually all Republican candidates have said from their campaign’s inceptions that we need a tighter border, expressing national security concerns about the matter, even amid disagreements about how immigrants here illegally ought to be treated. Mix this already complicated, emotional issue with legitimate fears surrounding terrorism, and you’ve detonated political dynamite.

As the dust clears in Paris, officials have confirmed that one of the suicide bombers at the Stade de France entered Europe by way of Greece with a fake Syrian passport. The Washington Post reported that, “He disembarked with 197 desperate migrants on the isle of Leros, where harried police processed the man whose Syrian passport named him as Ahmad Almohammad, a 25-year-old from Idlib.” The man’s true identity remains unknown – he may not be Syrian at all – but officials confirmed that his fingerprints matched those of “Almohammad,” who entered Europe on October 3rd.

This has led to a justifiable fear among Americans. As President Obama calls for the United States to take in 10,000 refugees, people want to know how their elected officials will prevent another “Ahmad Almohammad” from forging his way into our country. And the concern goes beyond fake passports: What if ISIS terrorists are, as they claim, embedded in refugee camps? If they can enter Europe so easily, can’t they get into America? These are legitimate concerns that have sparked action among many politicians.

More than half of all governors have said their states will not accept Syrian refugees for fear of endangering their citizens. Every Republican presidential candidate has said we should at least put a pause on if not outright ban Syrian migrants – particularly if they’re not Christians, according specifically to both Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush. Three days after the attack in Paris, Rand Paul introduced a bill reminiscent of one he had filed in 2013. According to a statement from Paul’s Senate office:

“This legislation that would suspend visa issuance for countries with a high risk of terrorism and impose a waiting period for background checks on visa issuance from other countries until the American people can be assured terrorists cannot enter the country through our immigration and visa system.” In addition, the bill would make sure that immigrants already in the U.S. via countries that pose high terror risks are being monitored, and would make sure that the Department of Homeland Security’s entry-exit system is 100 percent complete, ensuring that people are not overstaying their visas. Paul also introduced an amendment that would block welfare benefits for any new refugees that enter the U.S.

While these are arguably common sense measures, especially seeing as the terrorists who executed 9/11 entered the U.S. through visas, it’s equally important to make sure we as citizens aren’t driving politicians to legislate through fear absent rational thinking. Most reasonable people would agree that instituting a more stringent screening process is wise. But does that mean we cannot admit any of these suffering Syrian refugees at all? Is President Obama’s modest proposal of 10,000 truly too much for the United States to handle?

Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst for the Cato Institute, wrote a compelling piece that delves into the processes around our refugee system, and convincingly contrasted the situation in Europe with what takes place here. As he explained, “There are many differences between Europe’s vetting of asylum seekers from Syria and how the United States screens refugees. The geographic distance between the United States and Syria allows our government to better vet those seeking to come here while large numbers of Syrians who want to go to Europe show up at their borders and are less carefully vetted. A lax security situation there does not imply a lax security situation here.”

Nowrasteh also presented some sobering statistics, explaining that of the 859,629 refugees admitted into the U.S. since 2001, only three have been convicted of planning terrorist attacks, all on targets outside of the United States, and none of the plots were successful. (As Nowrasteh notes, the Boston Marathon bombers were from a family that sought asylum, a distinction with a major difference). “That is one terrorism-planning conviction for a refugee for every 286,543 of them who have been admitted. To put that in perspective, about 1 in every 22,541 Americans committed murder in 2014,” wrote Nowrasteh.

Of course, these statistics don’t mean that Americans have no right to be alarmed by the prospect of terror on our shores. After all, ISIS has made it abundantly clear that they seek Western targets, the United States included. It seems however, amid our justifiable concern, that pointing fingers at refugees as it pertains to how terrorists actually enter the U.S. may be misguided. As Paul noted and many other politicians have long pointed out, the 9/11 hijackers entered the U.S. on business, tourism, and student visas and overstayed them as a result of insufficient policing in this arena.

This is not to say that ISIS operatives embedding themselves in refugee camps isn’t a new type of threat. The federal government should in no way be lax in its vetting process, and there are legitimate concerns around whether the agencies in question are properly following their own rules on this. But as Nowrasteh explained, “Few ISIS soldiers or other terrorists are going to spend at least three years in a refugee camp for a 0.042 percent chance of entering the United States when almost any other option to do so is easier, cheaper, quicker.” Refugees are simply not pouring onto our shores and allowed to enter with a cursory look at a passport, as was the case with the Paris bomber in Greece.

Europe has a major problem on its hands, but their troubles don’t quite mirror what we’re facing in the U.S. The flame war over displaced Syrians has obscured the point that refugees themselves are rarely the problem. As of this writing, the man with the forged passport does remain a mystery, but all of the terrorists identified in the Paris attacks were either Belgian or French nationals. As we move forward with this debate, all sides ought to extend each other grace, consider the facts, and ideally, work toward a solution that will allow refugees who are truly in need to seek the American Dream.

Many Iowa Republicans support Trump’s plan to deport—but that doesn’t mean he’ll win

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Originally published at Rare

A recent poll of 400 likely Republican caucus participants in Iowa has found near-majority support for Trump’s call to deport the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States.

According to the poll, commissioned by Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Register, 47 percent of potential caucus-goers see his position in this area as an asset, while 37 percent think his policy plan won’t work. Additionally, 88 percent believe he holds a strong stance on international trade, and 84 percent believe he will help create middle-class jobs.

While these voters support Trump’s positions, it remains unclear whether he will ultimately be their candidate of choice. As Lauren Luxenburg, an account executive at WPA Research, recently wrote at IJ Review, a lot of the attention surrounding Trump has been manufactured by media hype rather than the realities of polling trends.

Luxenburg cited the failed campaigns of past frontrunners who were polling in ranges close to Trump’s current numbers early in the primary process. Remember Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain? Bachmann was polling at 24 percent in June of 2011, and Cain shot up to 20 percent shortly thereafter. Rudy Giuliani was similarly positioned in the summer of 2007.

Rick Perry may have what appears to be a floundering campaign this time around, but when he announced in 2011, he moved to the top of the pack at 29 percent by August, only to fall rapidly. At that point, eventual nominee Mitt Romney only registered at 17 percent.

Even President Obama was running 15 points behind Hillary Clinton in early polls.

As Luxenberg said, “It is clear that polling leads in a crowded field don’t indicate much, so why are we allowing hostile-to-Republican media to position them as meaningful?” It’s certainly a valid question for conservative voters to consider.

Trump, with his built-in celebrity status and bombastic ways, certainly knows how to drive a media narrative. But this doesn’t mean he’s the inevitable face of the GOP, even if many voters in a key primary state say that they agree with his positions. There’s still a lot of time for voters to learn the nuances of his policies, especially relative to other candidates.

Trump has already seen a decline in his standing nationally, with a nine-point drop after the first debate, according to a Rasmussen poll. There’s still ample time for other candidates to rise. One such possibility is Carly Fiorina, who has shot to third place in key states according to recent polling, and has secured a spot for herself on the stage of the next debate.

If Trump falters and fades, someone who’s right now barely registering in the polls could fill his shoes. The Republican presidential primary is still anyone’s game to win.

Many Iowa Republicans support Trump’s plan to deport—but that doesn’t mean he’ll win

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

Originally published at Rare

A recent poll of 400 likely Republican caucus participants in Iowa has found near-majority support for Trump’s call to deport the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States.

According to the poll, commissioned by Bloomberg Politics and the Des Moines Register, 47 percent of potential caucus-goers see his position in this area as an asset, while 37 percent think his policy plan won’t work. Additionally, 88 percent believe he holds a strong stance on international trade, and 84 percent believe he will help create middle-class jobs.

While these voters support Trump’s positions, it remains unclear whether he will ultimately be their candidate of choice. As Lauren Luxenburg, an account executive at WPA Research, recently wrote at IJ Review, a lot of the attention surrounding Trump has been manufactured by media hype rather than the realities of polling trends.

Luxenburg cited the failed campaigns of past frontrunners who were polling in ranges close to Trump’s current numbers early in the primary process. Remember Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain? Bachmann was polling at 24 percent in June of 2011, and Cain shot up to 20 percent shortly thereafter. Rudy Giuliani was similarly positioned in the summer of 2007.

Rick Perry may have what appears to be a floundering campaign this time around, but when he announced in 2011, he moved to the top of the pack at 29 percent by August, only to fall rapidly. At that point, eventual nominee Mitt Romney only registered at 17 percent.

Even President Obama was running 15 points behind Hillary Clinton in early polls.

As Luxenberg said, “It is clear that polling leads in a crowded field don’t indicate much, so why are we allowing hostile-to-Republican media to position them as meaningful?” It’s certainly a valid question for conservative voters to consider.

Trump, with his built-in celebrity status and bombastic ways, certainly knows how to drive a media narrative. But this doesn’t mean he’s the inevitable face of the GOP, even if many voters in a key primary state say that they agree with his positions. There’s still a lot of time for voters to learn the nuances of his policies, especially relative to other candidates.

Trump has already seen a decline in his standing nationally, with a nine-point drop after the first debate, according to a Rasmussen poll. There’s still ample time for other candidates to rise. One such possibility is Carly Fiorina, who has shot to third place in key states according to recent polling, and has secured a spot for herself on the stage of the next debate.

If Trump falters and fades, someone who’s barely registering in the polls currently, could fill his shoes. The Republican presidential primary is still anyone’s game to win.

Jeb Bush spoke Spanish at the border and this was Donald Trump’s insane reaction

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Originally published at Rare

Real estate mogul Donald Trump has more than just a background in politician-buying and crony business dealings. His signature crassness and apparent acting skills have made him a star not just in reality television, but even pro-wrestling.

Trump has since taken his show on the road in a political context, adding a special splash of personality to the presidential race with his unfettered use of social media.

After the first Republican debate, Trump endorsed using the word “bimbo” to describe Fox News host Megyn Kelly. He responded in this fashion because she dared to ask him a tough question about, of all things, his penchant for insulting women.

Ever one to interact with his fans and hurl insults, Trump has managed to outdo himself yet again. In response to Jeb Bush’s recent trip to the border, during which he spoke Spanish (his wife’s native language) Trump retweeted the following.

Earth to Trump: “Mexican” isn’t a language. The fact that this needs to be said is concerning.

For a man who claims he’s going to magically make the Mexican government pay for a border wall, Trump is apparently, dangerously unfamiliar with the country’s culture. Not only does he manage to bring out the worst in his fans, Trump consistently doubles down and promotes abject ignorance.

Increasingly, it feels as though Trump’s presidential candidacy is an extended Saturday Night Live skit. Or perhaps an episode of South Park.

“What’s wrong with slavery?” asks anti-immigrant talk radio host

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Originally published at Rare

In a display of how vile the discourse has become in certain pockets of the conservative movement, Iowa talk radio host Jan Mickelson suggested this week that people found in the country illegally should become “property of the United States.”

Mickelson detailed his dehumanizing plan on air, explaining that he would issue a public notice giving undocumented individuals a grace period in which they could leave his home state. If people who were unable to sufficiently prove their legal status to the government were still in Iowa after the time allotted, they would be declared human property of the state.

“I think everyone would believe it sounds like slavery,” a caller told Mickelson upon hearing that he would round people up and put them in labor camps reminiscent of communist North Korea.

“What’s wrong with slavery?” inquired Mickelson. “Well, we know what’s wrong with slavery,” the caller retorted. Mickelson then went on to claim that his alleged solution is moral, legal, and politically doable.

“We would take a lesson from Sheriff Arpaio down in Arizona. Put up a tent village, we feed and water these new assets, we give them minimal shelter, minimal nutrition, and offer them the opportunity to work for the benefit of the taxpayers of the state of Iowa,” said Mickelson.

Mickelson also suggested that these minimally fed and sheltered “illegal Mexicans” turned “assets” could build a wall on the northern border of their native country. This would in effect make their government pay, as Donald Trump has vaguely promised as part of his campaign platform.

Mickelson’s comments follow a similarly dehumanizing immigration related statement from another right-winger who comes across as more authoritarian than meaningfully conservative. “I don’t care if Donald Trump wants to perform abortions in the White House after this immigration policy paper,” tweeted Ann Coulter in praise of Trump’s radically anti-immigrant platform.

While a segment of conservatives want to crack down on illegal immigration and secure the border, Mickelson’s crude comments don’t represent the mainstream. Many conservatives share Ted Cruz’s position that illegal immigrants should not be granted amnesty, but that we ought to invite more legal workers into the country.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal / NBC News poll however, a full 53% of Republicans support a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.