Syrian refugees are an obvious big topic right now due to the terrorist attacks in France. For the most part in South Dakota I’ve seen the issue split on party lines. Republican politicians in SD have spoken out against allowing Syrian refugees into South Dakota. Democrat politicians have actually been pretty quite, but I’ve seen Democrat groups within the state speak in favor of allowing refugees. And of course the Republican Governor has not joined the majority of Governor’s around the country that have decided they don’t want Syrian refugees. In this post I won’t look in-depth into the issue or try to provide a solution. Instead I will just add a few random thoughts to the debate.
First, I have a pretty libertarian view of immigration as a whole. For the most part I believe in open borders and believe fixing the broken immigration system should be a top priority of Congress. Additionally I generally believe taking in refugees from war-torn countries is morally the right thing to do. Notice I used the word “generally” in the previous sentence. The situation we are currently in is much more complicated than the two big parties are making it out to be.
The reason I am hesitant in this situation is because of the massive potential security risk allowing these particular refugees would create. I am coming at this from the point of view of someone who HAS been through overseas deployments and knows first-hand some issues that were had with groups similar to ISIS purposely infiltrating refugee camps in order to punish those very refugees. Now granted, the situations I personally know of were targeted directly at punishing refugees that were seen as traitors. But it is not hard to imagine the same processes used could be used to get further through the refugee program in order to punish countries that are taking in refugees. To me this isn’t a debate over whose statistics are better or who feels they have the higher moral ground. Instead I am looking at past experiences and believe that as a country the United States should proceed very cautiously.
Another thing to consider is how well the Obama administration will screen the refugees brought into the United States. Normally I would say taking in refugees is a good thing. But the current administration has proven even more efficient than his predecessor (GW Bush) at killing people in the Mid East, especially civilians. Believe it or not I tend to think that having family and friends killed by an unmanned drone tends to piss people off and make them hate America. If Obama keeps his war-hawk ways going and aims full-force at Syria it can be expected that some of those refugees will also start to gain resentment towards the US as their friends and family are killed. Is it possible at that point to screen out people who will get pissed off in the future because the United States continues to kill their countrymen in what could end up being a thirty-year war? I can’t imagine anyone coming up with a screening system that could account for such factors.
Finally I want to touch on whether the governors should accept refugees into the State. Yes, as many Democrats have pointed out, immigration is a Federal issue. In reality it is unlikely the States can stop refugees from being placed in their states. But that doesn’t mean the states simply need to sit back and take refugees without a fight. One thing state governors can do is publicly support or reject refugees. Now that a majority of the states have governors opposing refugees it might be time for the Obama administration to sit back and come up with a better strategy. If Obama were to simply roll ahead with his plan without acknowledging what the majority of the states want I fear bad backlash in Congress. Right now there is a Republican majority in Congress. I can foresee legislation coming that will further erode the broken immigration system just so Congress can keep a tighter reign on what the Obama administration is doing. That would be bad and would distract Congress from actually working on an immigration solution that works.
I think I’ll end this post here. Like I said at the beginning of this post I am pretty much an open borders type of person. Yet at the same time I have reservations about letting Syrian refugees in under the current immigration system and especially under the current executive administration (GW would have been equally as bad). This is a tough one to be sure. My heart says to allow the refugees, while my head says keep them out. Perhaps in the future politics of the two big parties will mature to a point where they can realize issues such as this are not as simple as their talking points make it seem.
So should SD accept refugees? That is a damn good question…
PS. My deployments happened under the “peacetime” President Clinton. The more things change, the more they stay the same…