If there is one thing the Republicans are good at, it's recognizing that tragedy represents a political opportunity -- and within hours of the Paris tragedy, they were already trying to use that tragedy for their own political gain. Now they think they've found the perfect way to do that.
Following the lead of Greg Abbott of Texas and Rick Scott of Florida, all Republican governors are now saying they will refuse to allow Syrian refugees to re-locate to their states. They know that President Obama has promised to accept at least 10,000 refugees (and Democratic presidential candidates have called for accepting up to 65,000), and they hope to use fear generated by the Paris attacks against the Democrats.
These governors say they are just trying to protect the citizens of their own states , but they know that refugees coming to this country are vetted very well -- and they also know they have no authority to deny any refugees wanting to re-settle in their states. But facts don't matter to them. They aren't trying to protect anyone. They are just engaged in a craven pandering to the xenophobes and bigots in their own party. This is obvious -- and it's so obvious that even a reliably conservative newspaper like The Dallas Morning News sees it. Here's what they had to say in a recent editorial:
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is now leading the charge for Americans to harden their hearts and slam shut the doors to desperate people fleeing war and Islamist terrorism in Syria. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a GOP presidential hopeful, suggests America should impose some kind of religious litmus test. Fellow candidate Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, suggests that only Christian refugees be allowed to enter.
These leaders — along with other prominent Republicans — are pandering to the most xenophobic tendencies among a small sliver of the American electorate, as if to capitalize on last week’s tragedy in Paris for political gain. Shame on them.
Abbott wrote to President Barack Obama on Monday imploring the federal government to stop accepting Syrian refugees and declaring that Texas will not accept them because a Syrian passport was found near one of the terrorists killed in the Paris attacks. Initial reports suggested a Syrian may have mixed in among the hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding into Europe.
In Abbott’s mind, that makes all refugees suspect. In Cruz’s mind, Muslim refugees should only go to Muslim countries. America is for Christian refugees, Bush suggests.
Abbott has no power to decide who lives in our state. Constitutional and civil rights experts say the governor’s words have no legal force because people properly admitted to the U.S. are free to move about the country as they please. And the Refugee Act of 1980 gives the president authority to guide the federal process determining refugee resettlement. Neither Abbott nor any of the two dozen other Republican governors making the anti-refugee declaration may override the authority granted to the executive branch by Congress.
Abbott based his position on the lack of a federal guarantee that Syrian refugees will not engage in “terroristic activity.” We share his desire to keep Texans safe.
However, no government can offer absolute guarantees. And he, Cruz and others overlook some basic facts about America’s refugee resettlement program. First, it has a stellar record. As Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., noted in a radio interview Tuesday, millions of Vietnamese were resettled here without incident after the Vietnam War. And even as Americans were being killed by suicide bombers and jihadi radicals during the Iraq war, thousands of Iraqi refugees were resettled here peacefully.
That’s because the United States imposes a rigorous vetting process that can take years to complete before any outsider is allowed in. Europe currently is grappling with the arrival of more than 750,000 refugees, and it’s clear that vetting policies have been eased in favor of humanitarian considerations.
The entry of one Syrian terrorist into Europe doesn’t mean that U.S. vetting procedures are lax, that all refugees are suspect, or that Americans should throw their sense of compassion out the window.