Merry Christmas — Have Yourself Some Anti-Refugee Hysteria

Chris ToensingThis holiday season, politicians are taking aim at some of the most helpless people on earth.

— by Chris Toensing

As holiday shoppers empty their wallets to buy presents for family and friends, there’s been an outbreak of miserliness among our politicians — directed at some of the world’s most helpless people.  At least 30 Republican governors, and one Democrat, are vowing to bar Syrian refugees from their states. One family was actually turned away at the Indiana state line when the local resettlement agency got a nasty phone call from the authorities.

In Washington, 47 House Democrats joined their Republican colleagues to pass a bill requiring each and every Syrian applying to enter the United States to be personally approved by the heads of three intelligence agencies. That would include “widows and orphans,” says President Barack Obama, who rightly opposes the measure.

It’s not just an American affliction. In late November the European Union signed a deal with Turkey offering that country nearly $3.2 billion to clamp down on refugees trying to exit across its borders. The EU has such pacts with Libya and Morocco, too.

What’s with the mean spirits? It’s supposed to be the season of generosity.

Global Panorama/Flickr
Global Panorama/Flickr

The immediate trigger is fear, prompted in part by false reports that one of the terrorists who attacked Paris on November 13 was a recent Syrian migrant. In fact, almost all of the assailants identified so far were Belgian or French citizens. But it’s only too easy for demagogues like the Republican presidential candidates to dream up nightmare scenarios about a jihadi militant or two sneaking into America disguised as an asylum seeker.

Sure enough, after the terrible mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Rand Paul put forward a measure in Congress that would have imposed an “immediate moratorium” on visas for refugees from “high-risk” countries. Neither of the killers was a refugee — one was born in America and the other grew up in U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia. And they obtained every piece of their enormous arsenal right here in the US of A, legally.

Paul’s opportunism taps into deep currents of anti-Muslim prejudice that politicians have been stirring up for years.

When Donald Trump says that mosques should be under permanent surveillance and that Muslims should be barred from entering the country, or when Jeb Bush says that Syrian Christians can move here but not Muslims, they send a clear message: They believe all Muslims are potential terrorists.

This dark hint isn’t just the opposite of charity. It’s racist — and downright perverse.

Syrian refugees are fleeing from terrorism, whether by the regime of Bashar al-Assad or his radical Islamist opponents, among them the Islamic State. Over half of Syria’s 22 million people have been displaced from their homes over the course of the dreadful civil war — now a proxy war — that has raged there since 2011.

The pace of flight has increased with the Russian airstrikes on the side of the regime. In October alone, the UN reported, 120,000 people were forced to leave areas that had previously been spared the worst of the fighting.

Syrians run first to relatives in other provinces, then to neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. But those front-line nations lack the resources to absorb the refugees indefinitely. So, more and more, Syrians are spending their savings to head westward via dangerous smuggling routes. Far too many are dying along the way.

Ben Carson, another GOP White House hopeful, visited a refugee camp in Jordan and claimed that most of the residents want to return home rather than come to America. He’s not wrong, exactly — anyone would rather live in familiar surroundings than in a strange country across the ocean.

But Carson left out the important part: Syrians only want to go home when it’s safe. That day, sadly, is a long way off.

In the meantime, the United States and Europe can save lives by easing the restrictions on formal, legal refugee resettlement. We should welcome as many escapees from the Syrian catastrophe as possible.

‘Tis the season of giving, not barring the door.


Chris Toensing is editor of Middle East Report, published by the Middle East Research and Information Project in Washington, DC. MERIP.org.  Distributed by OtherWords.org

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NOT Good Enough for the Fearful?

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson explains the Syrian refugee screening process

In the days since the terrorist attack in Paris, there has been a huge debate in the United States over Syrian refugees. While the U.S. has committed to taking 10,000 people fleeing the Syrian civil war, some have argued that there is no way to ensure that terrorists won’t enter the country posing as refugees. The Obama administration has responded by saying that the vetting process is extremely rigorous.

So, putting aside emotional rhetoric about this issue, what exactly is that process?

According to Secretary Jeh Johnson, more than 23,000 potential refugees have been referred to the U.S. and that only 2,000 have made it past the screening. But according to the GOP fearmongers, our process isn’t good enough for them.  Is that because 2,000 worthy souls actually made it through the process?

Head more …. HERE

The Right-Wing’s UnAmerican Rhetoric

Hitler1aFrankly, I’m ashamed of the anti-islamic rhetoric being spewed forth by those on the right (or should I say wrong) side of the political spectrum.  With Republican candidates calling refugees nothing more than rabid dogs (Ben Carson), espousing registration of anyone who is a Muslim (Donald Trump), saying that we should take in ‘Christian’ refugees but not ‘Muslim refugees (Bush) and stomping the crap out of our constitutional right to freedom of assembly (Marco Rubio), I truly hope Americans start waking up to what the Republican party has apparently become — the party of Hitler.

Here’s a few of the headlines that make me wonder exactly “what” the Republicans want to “take our country back to.”

Articles from the right

Articles from the left

Meanwhile, newly anointed Speaker Ryan pushed forth legislation (HR 4038) that would pretty much put a halt to resettlement of any Syrian refugees on U.S. soil claiming “It’s a security test, not a religious test. This reflects our values.”  HR4038, which was passed by the House yesterday, was introduced shortly after the terrorist attacks by the fear mongerers of the right-wing.  Never mind that the attacks in Paris were NOT conducted by Syrians, but by homegrown radicalized French and Belgian domestic terrorists.  So while any French or Belgian domestic terrorist could present their official EU passport, travel to the U.S. and commit an act of terrorism in the U.S., we’ll be preventing non-violent Syrian refugees from being able to escape the horrors of terrorism for themselves and their family.

Speaker Ryan has portrayed our current vetting process as being seriously broken, Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD5), on the other hand, claims he’s wrong. “The bill rests on a faulty assumption that the European refugee screening process is similar to the United States screening process. This is entirely inaccurate,” he wrote in today’s Daily Whip. Rather than improve security, Hoyer said that HR4038 would prevent refugees from entering the country by making the vetting process overly inefficient. He described the bill as a “knee-jerk reaction” to a situation in Europe dissimilar to our own.  Unfortunately, even with Democratic leadership against the bill, one-fourth of Democrats succumbed to the hysteria and voted to pass it in the House vote.

Under existing law, the United States vets refugees for one-and-a-half to two years before allowing refugees to enter the country. If enacted (President Obama has vowed to veto it), this bill would likely halt the screening process.  Just as the Republicans have never gotten around to proposing any alternative to the Affordable Care Act, and as they’ve passed one bill after another to nullify any actions taken by the EPA to protect our environment, they’d likely pass yet another bill to nullify any actions taken to rectify their ‘vetting’ concerns.

The Paris attacks have sparked deeply troubling, abhorrent anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-immigrant policy proposals from the Republicans in Congress that not only don’t represent our American values, but they’re contrary to the principles outlined in our U.S. Constitution.  I just hope that Americans, especially those new citizen immigrants, all across our nation are paying attention. Enough is enough!  It’s time for us to cast our votes FOR American values and AGAINST those who have clearly demonstrated they would trample them in a heartbeat.

An Open Letter to Paul Ryan

AnnWernerAs a nation, we must stand up and call out those who betray what it means to be an American.

Dear Paul Ryan,

Shame on you. Shame on your Party for succumbing to the absolute worst in human nature. Shame on you for wanting to legislate turning our back on people who are fleeing for their lives. Shame on you for fomenting fear and hatred. Shame on you for accusing our president of politicizing the refugee crisis.

What has he said? He said he will veto the bill Republicans have cooked up to stop us from accepting a mere handful of Syrian refugees. Because he is abiding by our constitution, President Obama is politicizing this crisis? Is that what you’re saying? His statement “this is not who we are” is politicizing this crisis? This is “remarkably unpresidential?”

I’ll tell you who is politicizing it. You, and the people in that sorry excuse for an American political party, the GOP. The people who are always yelling about the Constitution and upholding the principles in it.

Donald Trump is on TV calling for shutting down every mosque in the United States. He has gone so far to say we should require all Muslims carry identification. What’s next? Making them wear star and crescent patches in a replay of what the Nazis did to Jews in Hitler’s Germany? Members of your party are calling for a religious litmus test: Christians only. Members of your Party want to round up Muslims in this country and put them into internment camps. Members of the GOP would have us believe that 5-year-old children and their mothers pose a threat and that every male Muslim is a terrorist. If left to your own devices, you would build a wall around this entire country and throw out everyone who doesn’t look like you, think like you and hate like you. One of the most hurled around “insults” of our president from your irrational, xenophobic, lying brethren is that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim and a secret member of the Muslim Brotherhood, bent on destroying America.

How dare you accuse the president of politicizing this crisis when that is all members of the Republican Party have done since the onset of the worst refugee situation since World War II? How dare you impugn his patriotism? I don’t even want to hear the word Constitution coming out of your mouth. You and the members of your backwards Party have betrayed every single value our country was built upon. I will remind you of the symbol that stands in New York Harbor. It’s a damned shame that I have to remind you. You, after all, are Speaker of the House, and one would think you would remember what we stand for, but since you don’t here is a refresher course:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she
With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”

For once in your stingy, privileged, Ayn Rand worshipping life, think about what you are doing and saying. You have forgotten what it means to be an American. You have betrayed the values Republicans used to respect. You have betrayed the values that made this country great. You and those like you are spitting on the Constitution you claim to want to uphold. You and the right wing members of your Party are a national embarrassment. More than that, you are a national disgrace.

Sincerely,
Ann Werner


Ann Werner is the author of thrillers and other things. Visit her at Ann Werner on the Web

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This letter was originally posted at LiberalsUnite