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Refugees, asylum, laws, safety and compassion?

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Last week Governor Ricketts joined 28 other governors in sending a letter to the President asking him to pause his Syrian resettlement program that threatened to place Syrians in Nebraska and other states until the United States government could come up with a way to investigate the background of each refugee to make sure that none of them were Islamic Jihadists.

To most people, that seems like a reasonable point of view considering the Paris attacks by ISIS Jihadists several weeks ago. However, the supporters of unrestricted immigration by Muslim refugees have been very critical of Governor Ricketts' prudent approach to this issue.

The debate regarding Syrian refugees is full of emotion and lacking in context in many cases, especially historical and legal context.

In addition, many political commentators on the left have recently accused or inferred that Republicans in general and conservatives specifically are lacking in compassion at best and are bigoted xenophobes at worst, because of their position to halt or institute a temporary moratorium on the Syrian Refugee Resettlement program until we can safely vet those applying for asylum as refugees in the U.S.

This is not a partisan issue, with both Republicans and Democrats supporting pausing the Syrian immigration program.

So, when I came across articles by Ian Tuttle and Andrew McCarthy at the National Review online responding to efforts by several journalists and commentators on the left that were comparing the current Syrian refugee situation with Jewish refugees during WWII, as well as our President saying it would be “shameful” and “not American” to have a religious test, I thought it would be good to share some of the points they made with you.

Most recently, history shows that President Obama halted the Iraqi refugees from entering the United States for six months in 2011 for many of the same reasons a majority of Governors and the public have articulated regarding the current Syrian refugee program.

So, we know that what the U.S. House of Representatives passed to temporarily stop the Syrian program is not without precedent, and is a prudent measure.

Back to Tuttle’s piece at the National Review.

He first, rejects the notion that the two groups are similar. The Jewish refugees were an ethnic group, while the Syrians are a group based on nationality.

A more accurate comparison would be German Jews and Syrian Muslims, because 97 percent of those seeking asylum today are Muslims.

It is not hard to refute the attempts to make a comparison between Jewish refugees turned away during WWII and Syrian refugees today.

The most glaring difference is that there was no conspiracy of German Jews in the 1930s attempting to carry out daily attacks on civilians around the world. No self-identifying Jews in the early 20th century were randomly massacring European citizens in places as diverse as magazine offices and concert halls and there was no ‘Jewish State’ establishing sovereignty over tens of thousands of square miles of territory, and publicly slaughtering anyone who opposed its advance, but there is among Syrian Muslims.

I agree with Tuttle that the vast majority of Syrian Muslims have no connection to such violence, but a percentage does exist, and it only takes a small cell of Islamic Jihadists to cause great carnage to innocent civilians.

In fact, his second point speaks to these potential sympathies from an Arab Opinion Index poll of 900 Syrian refugees.

This poll found that one in eight refugees, to some extent, hold a positive view of ISIS. That is nearly 13 percent. Another four percent couldn’t make up their mind or didn’t answer.

The German Jews of the 1930s didn’t sympathize with Nazis.

Tuttle’s, next point speaks to the question of assimilation.

Does the left’s comparison of the two groups hold up when looking at the likelihood of assimilation? No, it does not.

By World War II, German Jews had lived under Western civilization for around 150 years. In contrast, Syrian Muslims have lived under a worldview controlled by 500 years of the Ottoman Empire and dictatorship of the Assad family.

The reality is, Western religious and political ideas, and especially our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, are foreign and not in sync with their laws and traditions. This is evidenced by their lack of assimilation in Europe.

Finally, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the State Department, report that most of the 18,000 Syrian refugee-resettlement referrals are from Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq.

Having found refuge already, this is nothing like the German Jews who were escaping persecution from Nazi occupied territory.

Andrew McCarthy III, is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. In his article he addressed another claim made by our President that a religious test would be “shameful” and “not American.”

I believe he does a great job of showing us the current federal law regarding refugees and asylum, giving us a better legal context in which to view the Syrian Refugee Resettlement program.

The primary constitutional responsibility of the office of the President is to faithfully enforce and execute the law not a personal and arbitrary sense compassion.

Quoting current federal law he argues that the executive branch is “expressly required to take religion into account in determining who is granted asylum.”

Our law requires that an alien applying for admission must establish that religion, among other reasons, is or will be cause of persecution.

However, the applicant for asylum must also qualify as a refugee, as defined in statute. This too requires the executive branch to consider religion and as well as other things.

McCarthy notes, “Asylum is a discretionary national act of compassion that is directed, by law not whim, to address persecution.”

There is no right to immigrate to the United States. Civil war by itself does not necessarily qualify one as an asylum candidate.

Saying this, it is without question that Christians are being persecuted by ISIS and other Islamic groups, yet according to the latest stats of Syrian refugees only three percent are Christian, while the other 97 percent has been Muslim.

This is why I support our Governor for joining a strong majority of governors who want the federal government to slow down and pause to make sure we can effectively vet any qualified refugees, since our Presidents own FBI director said we can't.

As always, I really appreciate hearing from you on important matters. Please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff for information on legislative bills or if I may be of assistance. Please reach me at: Senator Bill Kintner, 1000 State Capitol, Lincoln, NE 68509 (402-471-2613), or at my email:


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