Right to Life Month: On Refugees and Sacred Rights

Recently, President Trump has placed a ban on refugees coming from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. If you haven’t noticed the coincidence between these nations yet, then I will spell it out: they are Muslim majority nations. This is a prolife issue. Protecting the refugee fleeing violence is a basic act of human kindness incumbent on anyone and any nation who is able. If we believe that life is sacred, that all lives matter, then the life of the refugee matters as well. As they languish in camps, their very lives are at risk of violence, disease, and generational, abject poverty with few of the basic essentials such as food and water.

Trump has made good, at least for the time being, on his ban of Muslim refugees being resettled in the US. Trump says it is so he can start a process of “extreme vetting.” Let’s take a look at what the current process looks like.
The Screening Process for Refugees Entry Into the United States (full text of the graphic written below the image)

And we thought the DMV was bad. Basically, if you have ties to a terrorist organization, look funny at your interview, or a piece of paper gets lost. You have more chance of entering the US on a forged passport or swimming the Gulf of Mexico than you do as a refugee. The process is slow, redundant, bureaucratic, and takes, at a minimum, 2 years to complete. The existence of a phone number you had thirty years ago and totally forgot about but get dredged up through the investigations–oftentimes going into war torn countries and salvaging government records and interviewing your friends and family–can bump you to the back of the line. That is why some refugees from a Bush era program to reward Iraqi nationals who helped us during the war and lost their place in their society haven’t been accepted some ten years later.

So why is Trump doing this? The sense is entirely nationalistic and operates on fears published by people who have little to no knowledge of who these people are. People can call them bigots and racists all they want, but this isn’t the case. These are people who have a strong sense of what their nation is, how their communities should be, and are afraid of these others coming in and changing everything. When you get right down to it, it is simply humans being humans. We like preserving norms and we dislike anything that disrupts them. We may criticize these sorts of people, but let me make one thing very clear: we cannot discount them. These aren’t the boogeymen of liberal memes; these are real people who are often caring and compassionate people. We cannot dismiss them and their concerns without so much as a nod. Otherwise, we do exactly what they are accused of doing: denying someone’s humanity and basic human rights.

That said, we need to examine why they believe that a freeze of Muslim refugees will solve anything. Ever since 9/11, the demand for “Islamic Experts” has risen. Both liberals and conservatives spin their own narratives, highlighting and downplaying the factors that help their case. Pamala Geller, Robert Spencer–not the alt-right leader Richard Spencer–Ron Branstner, and others became overnight experts and proclaimed their brand to the world. The Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR)–an unindicted co-conspirator in some very questionable dealings that I sincerely hope they have abandoned for their own sake–becomes the source for liberals. Like lawyers in a personal injury case providing their conflicting medical experts, we, the jury of public opinion, have to parse out the truth. Because there is truth in both narratives, but the absolute truth is much too complex to be on a bumper sticker. The dollars roll in for these experts while the refugees languish in bureaucratic limbo.

The truth is this. The US already does “extreme vetting.” We cannot have an influx of refugees like Europe unless they start coming over the Atlantic, which is practically impossible. There are security concerns with the refugee process that were addressed by bipartisan congressional oversight committees. No system is perfect, but America has the one of the best existing systems. Can it be improved to better integrate refugees into the population? Yes, it can. Yet, it will require participation of the public, a firm concern for the common good, and plain and simple charity for our fellow man. I can think of no greater ally in the fight against Islamic extremists than Muslims who have been given the freedom to be the sort of Muslim they want, not the one that radical ideologies force them to be.  Oppose this executive order and tell the oppressed Muslim refugees that we are their friends in taking back their religion.

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