Refugee Paranoia Sweeps U.S. as House of Reps Votes to Freeze Refugee Intake
Following the attacks in Paris, though none of the confirmed attackers were found to be Syrian—let alone Syrian refugees—racist paranoia has swept the United States.
The mayor of Roanoke, Virginia cited Japanese internment as a reason for rejecting Syrian refugees; the leader of Tennessee state House Republicans called for jailing refugees; Syrians are being stopped in various locations and suspected of being terrorists; and polling now shows that most Americans oppose Syrian refugee resettlement.
On Thursday afternoon that paranoia reached the U.S. House of Representatives. A bill was advanced to bar new Syrian refugees while there is some unspecified review of the refugee program, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi refused to whip her Democratic colleagues to oppose it. Obama is opposed to this legislation, so Democratic votes matter; it can only come into effect with a veto-proof majority.
Thus, 47 Democrats joined the Republicans in a 289-137 vote, which is veto-proof, to freeze the Syrian and Iraqi refugee programs. The bill now advances to the Senate, where Minority Leader Harry Reid has pledged it will not pass.
There were a few interesting divergences in the vote itself. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) voted for the bill while Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) opposed it; the two happen to be facing off in a Democratic primary that is supposed to be very close. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), vying for an Illinois Senate seat, cited her own time as a war veteran to defend the refugee program.
On the other side, some Republicans want to go even further. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to end all funding for refugee programs from a long list of countries, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and the "Palestinian Territories." With the exception of North Korea, all of these countries have significant Muslim populations. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), as part of his run for Louisiana's governor's mansion, will not rule out cutting off funds to Catholic charities that assist refugees.
All of this comes after the United States has welcomed 745,000 refugees since 9/11, with only two being charged with terrorism-related offenses (sending funds to an overseas terror organization).
The angry, paranoid claims being made against refugees have little basis in reality, yet they are shaping our political reality, leading to today's vote in the House of Representatives.