Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Is Congress Having Second Thoughts on anti Refugee Hysteria?

There is to be sure, Democratic opposition, but, apparently, even some GOPers are having second thoughts in this bill passed in haste.

"Speaker Paul Ryan led his fellow House Republicans in a lightning-fast sprint to pass legislation halting the flow of Syrian and Iraqi refugees just days after suspected Islamic State operatives unleashed a night of terror in Paris."

"But as Congress' attention slowly turns to other pressing end-of-year business, a movement is emerging to stop the refugee crackdown, and it’s not just Democrats leading the charge."

"Some Republican lawmakers are expressing concerns about the House bill, saying refugees pose less of a national security threat than foreigners who arrive by other means. They are joined by a growing number of prominent conservatives — including national security elders such as Henry Kissinger— who are speaking out against the legislation, urging lawmakers to reconsider a bill passed in haste.

"The House bill adds extra layers of screening for refugee applicants from Iraq and Syria, to the point where opponents say it essentially paralyzes a program aimed at helping desperate people fleeing violence. It has been fast-tracked in the Senate, but, with the odds of the Democratic filibuster high, Republicans are considering tucking it into a must-pass omnibus spending bill likely to be voted on next week."

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The Senate Dems have said no way the House bill makes it to the President's desk. Some GOP Senators seem to be open to their call not to focus on the refugees but the visa waiver program.

"Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said Tuesday that he is not happy with the House bill in its current form."

“I’d like to see some changes to it,” Flake said. “If we look at all of our vulnerabilities out there, [the refugee program] is down the list a ways in my view, in terms of our security threats and issues. I’d rather address those things that are closer to the top.”

Flake is working with Democrats to fix security gaps in the visa waiver program, which lets in people from many countries as tourists with far less scrutiny than refugees, who typically have to wait an average of 18-24 months before being cleared to resettle in the United States. Flake said he believes others in the GOP Senate caucus, after receiving briefings, are also beginning to see refugees as less of a threat than foreign nationals arriving other ways."

"Another Republican lawmaker unhappy with the legislation is Rep. Steve Russell of Oklahoma. He voted for the bill with serious reservations but in hopes of affecting the debate as it moved ahead. If the existing bill were to come before the House again, “I would vote against it,” Russell said. “I think it creates impossible barriers to refugees.”

For Russell, the issue is personal. One of his close friends is an American citizen who was trying to get his mother out of Syria. The mother died this past summer before she could leave the war-torn country. Out of respect for his friend’s privacy, Russell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, declined to offer specifics, including exactly what happened to the mother. But, he said, “I’m certain had he been able to get her to the United States she’d still be alive.”

"Russell urged Republicans in the Senate to think carefully before supporting the House bill, saying they should not get refugees confused with the broader issue of immigration. He pointed out that in the past the U.S. has denied entry to people in need of help, including Jews fleeing the Nazis."

“We have had dark periods when we have done this in the past,” he said. “History never judges it kindly — never.”
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On a different matter,Tom Brown asked me earlier what would be incremental positive change?. We were talking about the media. Well, if these Republicans really do work with the Dems on a better bill-without the need for a filibuster-that'd be a positive step. 

"The reservations being expressed come as advocacy groups step up efforts to push Congress to scrap the bill. The loosely coordinated lobbying includes organizations and individuals from across the political spectrum—from the conservative National Association of Evangelicals to the liberal Their campaigns include everything from urging their supporters to call lawmakers to encouraging refugees to speak out about their stories.

In a letter to lawmakers released Tuesday, a group of national security experts, including figures prominent in Republican circles such as former Secretary of State Kissinger, retired Gen. David Petraeus and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, urged a stop to the House bill."

"Refugees are victims, not perpetrators, of terrorism," the signatories wrote. "Categorically refusing to take them only feeds the narrative of [the Islamic State] that there is a war between Islam and the West, that Muslims are not welcome in the United States and Europe, and that the [Islamic State] caliphate is their true home."

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Amen. This bill sends a terrible political message to Muslims around the world.

"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who said he hadn't seen the House bill, was surprised when told Iraqi interpreters could be affected. "I'll check it out," McCain said. "I do want the interpreters program to continue."

President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the House bill, and it's likely that whatever does land on his desk will take a different form, even if it's part of the omnibus. A bill that deals with visa waivers has more bipartisan support, and the White House itself has taken recent steps to tighten up that program.

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So this to me would be positive incremental change. Not earth shattering but in the right direction.

I still have some hope that the nadir for House dysfunction was Kevin McCarthy and that Ryan's leadership will be something closer to actual leadership. Time will tell.

1 comment:

  1. They won't be if even one of the shooters in San Bernardino today has even a remote resemblance to somebody from the Middle East or has a slightly Islamic sounding name. It'll be almost as bad if any of them are Mexicans or Mexican immigrants (which is going to be fairly likely given it took place in SoCal).