Matt starts his post on the Syrian refugee crisis by stating he’s not an expert. He doesn’t know much about refugees or the legal process or the theological implications. “I have read zero books relating to this issue, “ Matt tells the reader. But the internet is full of people spouting off “half-baked ideas,” so he’s here to offer his.
Matt made a good first point that gave me hope for the rest of the post: “The refugees probably aren’t terrorists.” He even debunked the popular notion that the Boston Bombers were refugees and recognized that there were many far easier ways than applying for refugee status for potential terrorists to enter the United States. And then it went downhill.
“I believe it’s very reasonable to take a pause here, reassess, and figure out very precise and careful parameters for admitting these people.” Interesting you should say that, Matt, because that’s exactly what the U.N., the F.B.I., the National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Homeland Security, and other branches of our government have been doing. He says he’s only been reading up on this issue in the past week, and it shows. The Syrian war began in 2011, and these groups have been working since that time to create a safe and viable vetting process specifically for Syrians. The notion that “we,” assuming this we he’s talking about is the everyday person not involved in the actual security process, should pause and rethink national security is a bit arrogant if it assumes that security checks have not been made by government officials. So, by all means, pause and give the question some thought, do some research, find out what’s happening, but don’t assume that just because you aren’t informed, no one else is.
“The FBI director testified last month that they don’t currently have the ability to conduct background checks on all 10,000 of the refugees President Barack Obama wants to let in.” Matt is partially correct here. In fact what the director said, and what is seen in the video Matt links to, is a response to a very specific question about the FBI’s role in the vetting process and what their databases can tell us. No, “if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria,” Director Comey states they won’t appear in the database. However, the FBI database is only one of four security agencies’ databases that are used in the vetting process and the databases are only part of a multi-step, multi-layered security check. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, also has an enhanced Syrian review wherein all Syrian refugees are subject to further testing and more extensive interviews by highly trained specialists. What FBI Director Comey actually said before this quote and after it is that although the process has challenges, it has his full support (if you’re interested, here’s a link to a video of the committee hearing – Syrian refugee questions begin around 47:00).
“It is absolutely unacceptable and unconscionable that a single migrant from a Muslim country would be settled here without a thorough background investigation performed beforehand.” No one is arguing for this, Matt. The liberals that he continually bashes are not calling for the wiping out of the vetting process. Refugees are the single most vetted category of person entering the United States. Of all refugees applying for resettlement, the UNHCR submits less than 1% to move forward for resettlement. It takes an average of 18-24 months of vetting for the average refugee—and 24-36 months for the average Syrian refugee—to be allowed to enter the United States. The President is not calling for an “opening of the floodgates” as Matt claims. He’s agreed to let in 10,000 Syrian refugees. There are over 4 million Syrian refugees currently and another 7 million displaced from their homes still living within the Syrian borders. Accepting 10,000 people is roughly equivalent to matching .001% of the population of New York City or .003% of the population of Los Angeles — not a floodgate by any measure.
“A great many of them are young single men of fighting age.” Despite what several Republican candidates would have you believe, the numbers gathered by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the organization responsible for registering those fleeing their homes and applying for status, tell us this simply isn’t true. Here is where having a greater knowledge of the larger refugee crisis would have been helpful for Matt. The UNHCR website that Matt links to for his stat is giving numbers for the larger Mediterranean crisis. These are individuals who have made their way to Europe; they are not individuals applying for refugee status in the U.S. Nor are they in any way connected to the Syrian refugees who are attempting to come to the U.S. The registered Syrians who might be resettled in the U.S. are of a much more even demographic: roughly 50-50 male-female across all ages where ages 18-59 of each gender is just over 20% and 51% of all refugees are under 17, 43% under 14. According to the Refugee Processing Center data, children and families have been prioritized, just like Matt wants.
“[Americans are] allowed to think about the financial implications, and wonder how and why taxpayers should be made to accommodate thousands of (additional) foreigners on the welfare rolls.” Yes, they are. But this statement makes it clear that Matt hasn’t actually looked into the economics. The short answer is that according to numerous studies on the economic impact of refugees (Syrian and others) both worldwide and in the U.S. specifically, refugees have proven to be economically useful to their country of refuge (this post at the New Yorker sums them up nicely). As an example, one case study found that in Cleveland, the economic benefit of refugees within the community was equivalent to roughly ten times the initial resettlement costs.
“On the welfare rolls.” In fact, while there is a dependence on public aid initially, refugees become self-sufficient more quickly than any other group of immigrants. To start the process the International Office of Migration provides refugees with a no-interest travel loan that is due in full 46 months after arrival. The U.S. government extends a $1,000 stipend to each refugee. Each refugee (or family) is paired with one of nine voluntary organizations that work with local resettlement agencies to find affordable, open-market housing for refugees. Adult refugees are expected to pay taxes and find work, and according to the American Immigration Council, refugee women are employed at the same rate as U.S.-born women and refugee men are employed at a slightly higher rate. And before you start complaining about them taking jobs, they are most often taking jobs that Americans don’t want.
His attempt to dispute the connections to the Holocaust is frankly so distasteful I almost don’t want to respond to it. Matt conflates the ideologies of radical militant jihadists with the beliefs of all Muslims. In so doing, he does not respond to the “liberals” promoting the Holocaust analogy but instead simply shows himself incapable of differentiating between the actual beliefs of Muslims worldwide and the actions of a tiny minority.
Christians, Muslims, and Culture
“Muslim refugees should, for their own sake and ours, predominately go to Muslim countries, because Muslim countries have a Muslim culture.” I’m sorry, is he talking about Iran or Saudi Arabia or Indonesia or Turkey? Because all of these are Muslim-majority states, or “Muslim countries” as Matt calls them, but they all have vastly different understandings of culture and religion. Lumping them together allows him to gloss over their extreme differences by placing them in opposition to the U.S.
Matt also mentions several times that Muslim Syrian refugees won’t be able to assimilate into U.S. culture. Disregarding the fact that “U.S. culture” is a rather amorphous term that Matt never defines, the resettlement program is deeply invested in helping refugees feel culturally oriented. If they have relatives or friends in the U.S., they will most likely be resettled near them; if not, they will be resettled in an area that already has a sizable Syrian-American population to ease the transition. Also, data compiled by the Migration Policy Institute indicates that a majority of refugees entering the U.S. have become naturalized citizens. The Pew Research Center found in 2011 that there were no signs of growth in alienation or support for extremism among Muslim Americans, undermining Matt’s claim that refugees will “import radical Islamic ideology into this country.”
“For one thing, Christians aren’t going to be terrorists.” Crusaders? The KKK? Bombers of abortion clinics? Christian terrorists.
Matt is right to ask many of these questions. He’s just wrong to post a blog that pretends he’s done much more research than he actually has.