The blog in a nutshell

The blog in a nutshell

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Politics of Refugees and Bigotry

This is normally a law blog, but I am going off topic for a moment for a little self-therapy.  You see, I am in despair over the immediate turn towards bigotry in the wake of the Paris attacks.

There are over 4 million Syrian refugees registered with the United Nations.  These refugees live in a state of desperation, fear, and need, that most people (including myself) cannot possibly imagine.  Contrary to belief, they are not mostly men.  Instead, they are mostly women and children; only 11% of the 5 million are men of potential fighting age.  

They need help.  

The United States agreed to take in 10,000 of them over the course of a year.  That's  slightly more than 0.2% of the total.  It is a pittance, but at least it is something.  Even if the United States renewed that 10,000 person commitment for 10 years, that would still be 2% of the total population.  It is the least we could do.

One would think.

Numerous governors, mayors, Senators, and others have railed against taking *any* refugees.  Others have--naked in their bigotry--said they we should only take Christian refugees.  This has been mostly pushed by Republicans, but Democrats, either because they are equally ready to cash in hatred, or because they are too afraid to do the right thing, have also joined.  The House recently passed a bill which would effectively prevent any Syrian refugees from entering the country, by veto-proof majorities.  Hopefully the Senate will be more circumspect.

Let me make this absolutely clear:  The refugees pose no significant risk of harm.

First, the numbers:  There have been 784,000 refugees resettled into the United States in the last 15 years.  I do not know how many of them are Muslim, but given where the wars have happened recently, probably alot.  There have been exactly three terrorist plots uncovered among the 784,000,  and none of even those 3 posed a serious threat to America.  (In addition, I am aware of a handful of refugees who have been arrested for supporting ISIS; these were six refugees from the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia and one refugee rom the non-religious wars in Somolia.  None were recent--post-2000--immigrants, none had any ISIS or terrorist connections prior to coming to the United States, and none were seeking refuge *from* Islamic extremism, either Sunni or Shiite).

Second, the logic.  These are people who are *fleeing* ISIS.  They are not exactly people who are taking up ISIS's banner.  Most of them are likely fleeing because they are not radical Sunnis.  None of them are going to take up ISIS's cause, because if they were sympathetic to ISIS, they would not be fleeing.  

But what about some false flag campaign?  What if ISIS implanted fake refugees among the real refugees to access the United States and ultimately commit an act of terror?  Although a fun plot for the reboot of 24, it is absurd as a matter of logic.

Let's say you are ISIS, and you want to attack the country.  The easiest way to do that is to recruit Americans, of course.  Then you don't need to sneak anyone in.  (The attackers of Paris were all EU citizens, as far as we are aware). But let's say this is super top secret, the Americans kind of infiltation, and you can't risk recruiting Americans.  You need to embed a local.

Well, if you are going to do that, the refugee program seems like the absolute worst way to do that.  A refugee would be one of 5 million people who has fled the country.  The majority of them are living in official and unofficial refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria.  So you put your high value infiltrator there.  They have to live in squalor, risk death, disease, violence.  But let's say they survive that.   Then they have to apply for resettlement.  

Most likely, they have to apply through the UN refugee system.  But one can't be picky about where one gets refugee.  A refugee who is only interested in the United States won't pass the United States's vetting system.  And if the refugee-infiltrator wants the United States, they'll probably have to at least bring their family; a single military-aged male seeking refuge by himself is someone the US can easily avoid when deciding which people to take in. 

Okay, so that person now has precisely a 0.2% chance each year of being taken in by the United States.  To get that number up to a reasonable amount, you need more than one infiltrator, you need to separately have hundreds.  All to get maybe one or two terrorist families into the United States.  And at the cost of providing the government with significant details about yourself, where you have been resettled, etc.  Yes, the screening system is not perfect .  But it doesn't have to be perfect to adequately deter.  The screening and follow up effort still provides the government with a lot of information about your existence and location. This is not exactly an inconspicuous way of getting into the country.  Even if you get in, you're still being watched pretty closely.

If the US was a fortress impossible to impregnate, then, okay, maybe.  I mean, unlikely, but maybe.  But we are not.  Our borders are notoriously porous.  If you want to get a Syrian terrorist in, and you're willing to risk only getting in a percentage of your whole team, then you can send em through Mexico. Sure, they might be caught, but their odds are alot better than 0.2%.  You find Syrians with non-Syrian passports who can get tourist visas into the US.  The 2001 attackers did not need to come up with a convoluted plot to get into the country.  

So letting 10,000 Syrians suffer and die because of our terrified imaginations is not logical.  Sure, the risks are not zero - there is nothing in life where the risks are zero.  But a zero tolerance for any risk is bad policy, and a standard that we have never applied to any other situation.  

Instead, the opposition to the refugees are probably the product of one of several causes:

I am aware that there is a certain ugly strain of political thought these days that demands tolerance of the intolerant.  So we have seen Democrats chide other Democrats for not respecting those that fear the refugees.  Mockery may not be helpful - it may, instead, merely be cathartic to those like us whose fear is the atmosphere of fear and hate itself. 

But, even if liberals take a political hit, and they will, they can't deviate from an absolutist position against the politics of fear.  The cost goes beyond the 10,000 lives at risk right now.  It also creates an atmosphere of hate and bigotry that can have enormous repercussions.

Let's not repeat the pastPlease.  Seriously.  And let's not give the jihadists exactly what they want, and turn this from a battle between Western powers and 100,000 or so dedicated jihadists, into a war between 1.6 billion Muslims and the 3 billion plus Christians, secularists, Jews, etc. who they want Islam to be at war against.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.... (probably after Thanksgiving...)

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