Islamist terror attacks are on the rise, but this has not caused the Obama administration to waver in its goal to welcome at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States by the end of this year. A report quoted a government official who stipulated that 10,000 was a “a floor, and not a ceiling.”
Those who dared to express skepticism in our ability to properly distinguish between those who wish no ill will towards the West and those who are committed to Islamism are characterized as xenophobes, racists, or on the gracious end of the spectrum… irrational worrywarts. After all, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, reminded reporters in a press conference in 2015 that refugees went through the most careful vetting process of any kind of immigrant. That may be true, but that doesn’t mean careful vetting will be effective in a region embroiled in a civil war. One senior Federal Bureau of Investigations official, Michael Steinbach, testified that when the United States vetted Iraq refugee applicants, it still managed to let 13 terrorists slip into the country. He explained that the current Syrian crisis presents even greater vetting challenges. He said, “We learned our lessons with the Iraqi refugee population. We put in place a USIK-wide background and vetting process that we found to be effective…The difference is that in Iraq we were there on the ground collecting [information], so we had databases to use… The concern is that in Syria, the lack of our footprint on the ground in Syria, the databases won’t have the information we need. So it’s not that we have a lack of a process, it’s that there is a lack the information.”
In response to the terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015, the House of Representatives passed a bill by a vote of 289 to 137 (with nearly 50 Democrats voting in the affirmative) to try to up the ante on the senior Obama officials. The bill would require the heads of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security along with the Director of National Intelligence to certify that each refugee the United States intends to admit from Syria and Iraq does not pose a threat. President Obama threatened to veto the bill if the Senate passed and sent it to his desk. But Senate Democrats blocked the measure.
But just last week the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations James Comey issued this dire warning: “At some point there’s going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before…We saw the future of this threat in Brussels and Paris.” He added that future attacks will be on “an order of magnitude greater.”
Terrorist diaspora—out of Syria.
And recall, this is the administration whose officials are unwilling to describe the attackers’ motives as having anything to do with their Islamic beliefs. It makes sense, then, that the American people would have little confidence in those same government officials’ ability to know how to discern between friendly Syrian Muslims and those who are sympathetic to any number of Islamist organizations in the region—especially when they are without any kind of formal identification. It is their ideas that are the potential threat, and there is no way to find out what their ideas are without asking the right questions about their loyalties and their understanding of the application of Sharia law. This does not exclusively apply to the young men, but considering that they are the demographic most likely to join the forces of Islamist terrorism, it is especially true for them.
When I was a government employee several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Saudi Arabia. At one point a Saudi government official briefed the bipartisan delegation on the government’s efforts to combat domestic terrorism. When describing just how difficult it was to do this in the Islamic nation he joked, “It’s very challenging. One minute a young man is a very good Muslim, the next minute he is a terrorist. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be a terrorist tomorrow?!” He laughed. But nobody else did.
The threat of Islamist terrorism is on the rise, and even if the United States refused to admit any more refugees from the region—because of other nations’ lax immigration laws or their failure to use counter-terrorism tools available to them, or even because of their domestic laws that provide an environment where militant Islamism can thrive—the United States could inadvertently admit terrorists from ally nations as well.
But the United States is under no moral obligation to bring in more refugees of any kind, nor is it obligated to admit any immigrant into the country from relatively peaceful nations. The American people are free to change their immigration policies and tailor them to fit current challenges as circumstances change.
It is understandable for Americans to want to help the Syrians in the midst of a horrific civil war. Indeed, the United States has already provided more than $4.5 billion in aid to help Jordan cope with the influx of Iraqi and Syrian refugees. If Americans would like to do more to assist refugees in that part of the world, they can donate to organizations that do great work such as Samaritans Purse of the International Missions Board.
We have strayed far from a proper understanding of the role of the U.S. government in international affairs. The U.S. government was instituted among men, deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed—the American People—to secure rights granted to them by God Himself.
The US government has no power not given to it by the American People who live as free men possessing God-given rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The will of the People for the federal government, as explicitly outlined in the U.S. Constitution, is to provide for the common defense of the American People. Most Americans oppose the federal government’s efforts to bring in more Muslim refugees from a war-torn region during a time when the threat from Islamist militancy is on the rise. The United States of America is not President Obama’s (nor any American President’s) personal charity organization, nor are the American Peoples’ taxes his global humanitarian slush fund, and to the extent that it is willing and able to carry out the will of the People, Congress should apply the brakes on the Administration’s refugee plan until the clock runs out on its last term.
Rebeccah Heinrichs is a contributing editor for Providence and a fellow at the Hudson Institute, where she provides research and commentary on a range of security issues and specializes in deterrence and counter-proliferation. You can follow Rebeccah on Twitter at @RLHeinrichs.
Photo Credit: FBI Director James Comey speaking at Fordham University on July 27, when he warned the audience about a terrorist diaspora out of Syria. Released on FBI.gov.