In the New Haven Independent, the outreach director of a refugee resettlement charity in the United States takes issue with Donald Trump:
When asked in the most recent presidential debate about the Syrian refugee crisis, Donald Trump Jr. said his proposed ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. has become a plan of “extreme vetting … because we don’t even know who they are.”
But we do know who they are.
The U.S. vetting process for refugees is already the most rigorous in the world. Refugees who are being considered for resettlement to the U.S. undergo seven background checks by national security agencies and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security personnel. But refugees are not just threats we need to vet, nor are they simply victims we need to save.
I have the privilege of knowing who refugees are. Through my work at IRIS — Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, a not-for-profit that is resettling almost 500 refugees to Connecticut this year, I interact with refugees every day. The refugees I know are not terrorists or just victims. They’re the gay man from Baghdad who shows me pictures of his cat, the Afghan single mom who does YouTube yoga, the Congolese toddler who’s learning to wink, the fisherman who Skypes with his parrot back in Iraq, the Syrian teens who text while they ride their bikes.
Two things. First, note that the refugees mentioned here are almost all women and children, or people who, like the gay man from Baghdad, obviously appear to have grounds for refugee status. This is what happens when you screen migrants before you let them into your country.
Second, note that the woman who wrote this anti-Trump article, a proud liberal who actually helps run a refugee charity, does not complain about the background checks. She even seems proud of the fact that the U.S. vetting process is "rigorous". That is, even as a liberal who is intimately familiar with the problems of refugees, she accepts that every single asylum applicant will be exhaustively screened by "national security agencies".
Contrast this with the reaction to the latest bomb-maker migrant in Germany, an ISIS terrorist named Jaber Al-Bakr who entered Germany as a "refugee". This case is worth a short digression. Albakr had already prepared 1.5 kilograms of the high-explosive TATP in an ordinary apartment building in Chemnitz, Germany. Watch what just 10 grams of that stuff can do here. If this notoriously unstable compound had exploded, dozens of his neighbors would have been killed and injured. The police, acting on information given to them by the American NSA (g), which had gathered it through phone surveillance, found out about his activities. But Albakr escaped blanket surveillance (g) by elite German security services, was on the loose for days, and was only captured by fellow Syrians who recognized his wanted photo and tied him up while he was sleeping
His capture was celebrated by the German mainstream press as a victory for Germany's intelligence services, despite the fact that German intelligence would never have known of him had it not been for the NSA, and that he was literally allowed to walk right past German cops and escape from surveillance, and that Germany was on edge for days with a known terrorist free in their midst, and that police were unable to catch him on their own.
I'd say celebrating this train-wreck as effective intelligence work shows how low standards are in the German mainstream press, who are desperate to reassure readers that everything's fine with the refugees, move along here, nothing to see.
But then something else happened. Albakr was allowed to hang himself in his prison cell. There is no video surveillance in the cell where this experienced bomb-maker was being held, and authorities, after initially ordering checks every 15 minutes, decided there was no need for such precautions and reduced the suicide checks to once only every 30 minutes. He seemed "calm" in interviews, you see.
After this orgy of SNAFUs, the conservative CSU party demanded background checks for all refugees and that German intelligence services be given full access to the database of information on migrants (which, surprisingly enough, they don't have now). The reaction from left-wing German politicians was a litany of the same old cliches: More surveillance won't help (g), we shouldn't put all refugees under blanket suspicion (g), there's no reason to act (g).
The contrast is clear again: the liberal American friend to refugees accepts that background checks are necessary and uses that fact to reassure Americans that it's appropriate to take more refugees. Humanitarian relief must be balanced by legitimate security interests.
The German center-left political mainstream, despite several attacks and many more close calls, continues to resist universal background checks on refugees prior to entry, the policy of just about every other nation on the planet.
Who are the extremists here?