According to the New York Times and other media outlets, “The Donald” has proposed a mandatory registry of Muslims in the United States. Trump has also suggested that Muslims in the United States be required to wear special badges identifying their religious beliefs.
Because that worked out so well in Germany…
Trump may be the most visible, but he has lots of company. Responses to the desperate plight of Syrian refugees in the wake of the attacks in Paris have been chilling.
Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz have suggested that we “might” resettle those who can “prove” they are Christians. Ben Carson called Muslims–not just radicalized jihadists– “rabid dogs.” Chris Christie insisted he wouldn’t even accept five-year-old orphans in New Jersey. And 20 plus Republican Governors–including, of course, Indiana’s embarrassing Mike Pence– have announced that, Christmas season be damned, there’s no room in their state inns for any Middle Eastern supplicants.
Pence argues that his “suspension” of resettlement is warranted as a safety measure. Let’s deconstruct that argument.
- Governors have no legal authority to prevent resettlement. Pence and the others undoubtedly know that; they’re using this as an opportunity to pander to the GOP’s increasingly xenophobic base.
- All of the terrorists were French citizens, including the three who lived in Belgium. The Syrian passport found near one of them was fake.
- As Condoleezza Rice and others have noted, shutting out Syrian refugees is exactly what ISIS wants. It helps their recruiting. (The French, who “real Amuricans” like to dismiss as weenies, and who were the victims of the recent attacks, understand that, and immediately reaffirmed their acceptance of 30,000 Syrian refugees.)
What is heartbreaking is that these refugees are fleeing the same terrorists that our politicians say they are trying to “protect us” from, and the very small number (10,000) that the U.S. has agreed to resettle—the vast majority of whom are women, children and people over 60– have been undergoing 18-24 months of very rigorous vetting.
Could any sentient American really believe that the politicians demanding that we turn these people away are relying on an assessment of the risks involved?
Pence and the other “we’re-just-being-prudent” politicians issuing dire warnings about the risks of admitting refugees are, by and large, the very same politicians who adamantly oppose the most cursory background checks for gun purchases, even checks intended to weed out convicted felons and the mentally ill. They are perfectly willing to assume that risk, which–unlike the risk attendant to Syrian refugees– is anything but theoretical; guns kill 32,000 Americans every year.
Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants have been safely woven into the fabric of this country. Furthermore, terrorist attacks in the U.S. are more likely to be perpetrated by homegrown religious extremists and racists than by Islamic radicals. According to the New York Times,
Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.
For that matter, the magnitude of the terrorism risk, both homegrown and jihadist– the risk that has Governor Pence and others so panic-stricken– is minuscule: In 2011, the National Counter-Terrorism Center calculated that Americans are as likely to be “crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year” as they are to be killed by terrorists.
Let’s be honest. What motivates Mike Pence and those like him isn’t prudence. It’s bigotry. And we’ve been here before.
In 1939, the United States turned away the MS St. Louis, a ship carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees. Nearly half of those sent back to Europe later perished in the ovens.
The officials refusing to allow the ship to dock argued that some of those aboard could be Nazis. The rhetoric was all too similar to what we’re hearing today, as politicians played to, and stoked, popular fear and hatred of “those people.” Then, as now, their rhetoric reflected polls showing that most Americans wanted to keep the “others” out.
As the President has said, it’s unAmerican.
Maybe we should rewrite the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. Stephen Colbert has suggested an amended text: “Give us your tired, your poor, mostly Christians, and maybe one or two Indian guys with engineering degrees.’”
We should be ashamed.