Time keeps passing, and with each day that goes by, the catastrophic refugee crisis continues to escalate and more politicians hop on the bandwagon of using opposition to refugee resettlement as an opportunity for political grandstanding. Despite the growing chorus of bigotry, the states do not actually have the option to pick and choose which refugees they will admit.
Robert Carey, the Director of the Health and Human Services Department's Office of Refugee Resettlement, made that quite clear in a letter sent to states last week. "States that continue to use ORR funding must ensure that assistance and services are delivered without regard to race, religion, nationality, sex, or political opinion. States may not deny ORR-funded benefits and services to refugees based on a refugee's country of origin or religious affiliation."
That should be the end of it, but it probably won't be. GOP presidential candidates are also lining up to offer their unique takes on why compassion ought to be abandoned and why hard-line nationalism should be the rule of the day. It's a great time for fascism in America. Some politicians are even advocating internment camps for refugees. Apparently they've learned nothing from the atrocious treatment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.
One of the excuses used for opposition to resettling Syrian refugees is the claim that doing so represents a significant security risk. Don't bother giving these raucous critics numbers or statistics that prove them wrong. They simply don't care. They will point to (largely unsubstantiated) reports that ISIS is disguising its fighters as refugees in order to infiltrate Europe, and problematically extrapolate that they might attempt the same tactic in the US.
What all of this fear mongering conveniently ignores, however, is that the refugee screening process in the US is far more rigorous than the asylum process in Europe. The refugees showing up off the Greek and Italian borders in rafts have not gone through the same screening process as those officially resettled in the US.
Additionally, one has to consider the likely motives of ISIS leaders in claiming that they will disguise their fighters as refugees. If the goal of ISIS were actually to infiltrate the US with undercover operatives, it would be far simpler (and much more expedient) to do so using student or tourist visas than to go through the refugee resettlement program. Even sneaking agents in across America's porous and largely unguarded borders would be a far more attractive strategy than spending 2-3 years living in a refugee camp and undergoing extensive screening protocols in hopes that you might be one of the one-half of one percent of refugees who end up being resettled in the US.
Furthermore, if ISIS really planned to sneak in its fighters disguised as refugees, why would they announce it? What is really happening is a fairly transparent attempt by ISIS to manipulate the west into abandoning the refugees so that ISIS will still have a population of unfortunate souls to mistreat and victimize. ISIS wants to rule the Middle East, not to be left with an empty desert which everyone has fled.
If western nations are induced to abandon giving aid to and helping to resettle refugees, their decision will not help to defeat ISIS, instead they will give ISIS an even greater victory. ISIS is attempting to invoke fear in the west and thereby manipulate us into doing exactly what they want—blaming the victims of ISIS for the crimes of ISIS. Are we stupid enough to fall for it? ISIS thinks we are, and judging by the rhetoric coming from many of those in positions of power, I'm afraid that ISIS may be correct.