If someone wants to really understand Donald Trump’s enduring presence in the GOP primary they need look no further than this story in POLITICO: Momentum to bar Syrian refugees slows.
Speaker [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ] led his fellow House Republicans in a lightning-fast sprint to pass legislation halting the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees just days after suspected Islamic State operatives unleashed a night of terror in Paris.
But as Congress’ attention slowly turns to other pressing end-of-year business, a movement is emerging to stop the refugee crackdown, and it’s not just Democrats leading the charge.
Some Republican lawmakers are expressing concerns about the House bill, saying refugees pose less of a national security threat than foreigners who arrive by other means. They are joined by a growing number of prominent conservatives — including national security elders such as Henry Kissinger— who are speaking out against the legislation, urging lawmakers to reconsider a bill passed in haste.
The House bill adds extra layers of screening for refugee applicants from Iraq and Syria, to the point where opponents say it essentially paralyzes a program aimed at helping desperate people fleeing violence. It has been fast-tracked in the Senate, but, with the odds of the Democratic filibuster high, Republicans are considering tucking it into a must-pass omnibus spending bill likely to be voted on next week.
Nothing factual has changed between now and when the bill was passed. The people seeking to immigrate to the United States are skewed to young men. They are not fleeing violence, they are coming from very safe camps in Turkey. They are not vetted by any meaning of the word that an English speaker would understand. The UN does the vetting, the US representatives receive the product.
Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said Tuesday that he is not happy with the House bill in its current form.
“I’d like to see some changes to it,” Flake said. “If we look at all of our vulnerabilities out there, [the refugee program] is down the list a ways in my view, in terms of our security threats and issues. I’d rather address those things that are closer to the top.”
Jeff Flake has turned out to be a huge, huge, massive disappointment as senator but no one ever thought he’s make, with a straight face, the “I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.” This, mind you, was the same Senator who supported Comprehensive Immigration Reform. How about this “outside the box” idea? Let’s stop the Syrian refugee flow because we know the process is utterly broken and prevent a problem of growing larger. And later, let’s revisit how to improve the system, recognizing that Obama will do whatever the hell he wishes to do absent a flat out prohibition.
Another Republican lawmaker unhappy with the legislation is Rep. Steve Russell of Oklahoma. He voted for the bill with serious reservations but in hopes of affecting the debate as it moved ahead. If the existing bill were to come before the House again, “I would vote against it,” Russell said. “I think it creates impossible barriers to refugees.”
For Russell, the issue is personal. One of his close friends is an American citizen who was trying to get his mother out of Syria. The mother died this past summer before she could leave the war-torn country. Out of respect for his friend’s privacy, Russell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, declined to offer specifics, including exactly what happened to the mother. But, he said, “I’m certain had he been able to get her to the United States she’d still be alive.”
A rather ambiguous alleged tragedy is no excuse for setting national policy.
Russell urged Republicans in the Senate to think carefully before supporting the House bill, saying they should not get refugees confused with the broader issue of immigration. He pointed out that in the past the U.S. has denied entry to people in need of help, including Jews fleeing the Nazis.
The story doesn’t mention of Russell was wearing his clown nose when he said that. If he wasn’t he missed a great opportunity. A feckless senator and congressman not being sufficient, various foreign policy types have also weighed in:
In a letter to lawmakers released Tuesday, a group of national security experts, including figures prominent in Republican circles such as former Secretary of State Kissinger, retired Gen. David Petraeus and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, urged a stop to the House bill.
“Refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of terrorism,” the signatories wrote. “Categorically refusing to take them only feeds the narrative of [the Islamic State] that there is a war between Islam and the West, that Muslims are not welcome in the United States and Europe, and that the [Islamic State] caliphate is their true home.”
There is a bonejarring non sequitur here. If these people were “victims” then vetting wouldn’t be necessary. But we don’t know why they ended up in Turkish refugee camps and we do know the refugees streaming into Europe have been riddled with terrorist of various types. Indeed, they have been trying to enter the United States. Be that as it may, acting against our own best interests for the sake of not giving ISIS what it wants is something that a three-year-old does on a playground. The term for this is “tantrum.” Indeed, if we take the strategic approach advocated by some that the best way to defeat ISIS is to have ISIS fail, then it is really to our advantage to load the ISIS territory down with as many people as we can cram into it. Personally, I am willing to take the chance that Muslims staying in Muslim territories will play into the ISIS narrative rather than be stupid.
A number of Republicans have expressed surprise when told that the House bill would hamper efforts to resettle many Iraqis who serve as interpreters for the U.S. military or who have worked for the U.S. government in other capacities.
In the past, there have been two “special immigrant visa” programs that have helped Iraqi interpreters. One stopped taking applications last year. The other has a cap of 50 people a year (Iraqis and Afghans combined) and has unusually stringent requirements. The U.S. has instead encouraged Iraqi interpreters and others with U.S. affiliations to apply through what’s known as the Direct Access Program, which is a refugee program that is currently processing tens of thousands of people and which would be curbed under the House bill.
The fate of Iraqis was a special concern raised in the letter from the national security experts, who wrote, “The United States has a moral obligation to protect them.”
This is a particularly egregious collection of lies. First, when did US troops officially leave Iraq? How many years ago was that? What is the likelihood that someone who has survived that long is in danger? And the President of the United States has the authority to accept these people into the United States. If this was really an issue, the concern should have been expressed over the past four years and the administration should have acted on it. In short, this argument is bogus in all regards and if a crisis exists with allowing interpreters entry to the United States it is because the administration wants it that way.
If Speaker Ryan allows this section of the bill to be rewritten by the crew of nitwits demanding that it be changed then he has forfeited any goodwill owed to him. And it isn’t like this surrender will go unremarked. This is the kind of nonsense that has caused people who would never have considered voting for Donald Trump decide that when compared to the cretins currently running the show he looks damned good. If it does come to pass, it makes defeating Donald Trump much more difficult and if Trump gets the nominee the fault is not that of the voters but of egregious douches like Flake and Russell who are so out of touch that they can’t even understand what is wrong with what they are doing.