OUR REP'S DISAPPOINTING PANDERING TO PANIC, PREJUDICE, AND PARANOIA
November 23, 2015 -- Our U.S. Representative Steve Israel’s support for the recent bill passed by the House of Representatives purportedly to strengthen the screening process for Syrian refugees, victims of terrorism themselves, was an ignoble nod to the xenophobic anti-Muslim outcry that has arisen in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks of November 13.
The legislation requires, on top of the already rigorous nine step 18-24 month-long screening process in place, three officials - the FBI Director, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence - to “certify” that each of the potentially 10,000 refugees granted entry does not pose a threat to the country.The legislation does not increase the rigor of the vetting - it only creates a political risk for signing off on certification thus incentivizing the rejection of the asylum seeker’s application and adding a layer that will likely grind the asylum process to a halt - the Republican majority’s intent.
Casting his vote shortly after he had provided polling data to members of his caucus reflecting the public’s immediate emotional reaction to the horrific attacks of November 13, it does not appear that Mr. Israel, who serves as Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, actually supports the bill on its merits but rather has made a political calculation based on the belief it would be risky to vote “no,” lest he and other Democrats be perceived as “soft on terrorism” come election day a year from now. While the bill’s supporters seem for the moment unlikely to muster the two-thirds majority in the Senate required to survive a White House veto (although that is not certain and it does have such a majority in the House), the reasoning may be that no harm will ultimately be done as far as public policy is concerned.
Damage has, however, already been done and it is far greater than bad policy. Mr. Israel, and his 46 Democratic colleagues who found his presentation persuasive, have helped to validate the xenophobic anti-“other” response that too often accompanies fear and panic. It is a tacit endorsement of the decision of 31 governors to declare their states’ off limits to refugees (even though they know they have no authority to do so), and lends credibility to the outrageous statements and misinformation uttered by politicians and that are rampant on social media, and in some “mainstream” news sources.
Fortunately, there are some models of political courage out there. Take Washington State Governor Jay Inslee for instance, who, like Mr. Israel, is up for re-election next November, but unlike Mr. Israel, followed his conscience. Refusing to follow the false lead of the 31 governors, Mr. Inslee wrote an op-ed piece published in the New York Times last Friday explaining why he has chosen to forgo the easy opportunity to make political hay out of other people’s misery. “The American character is being tested,” Mr. Inslee writes, “I have always believed that the United States is a place of refuge for those escaping persecution, starvation or other horrors that thankfully most in America will never experience.” (Click here for op-ed). Mr. Inslee could have taken a path similar to Mr. Israel’s or could have done the safe thing and just stayed quiet. Instead, the Washington Governor decided to lead, publicly justifying his politically risky position from a platform that reaches tens of millions.
Mr. Israel on the other hand, presented with an opportunity to lead when his House colleagues and his nation need it most, has chosen to follow those who have cynically demagogued a tragedy and an important moral issue - one for which we cannot help but draw lessons from past failings of American moral leadership including the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and this country’s decision to send refugees from Germany back to Europe in 1939, as well as from examples of moral heroism such as those who opened their arms to Vietnamese and Cuban refugees when they arrived on our shores during the late 1970s.
Mr. Israel is a far better representative of this district than his recent actions with regard to the Syrian refugee crisis indicate, and he knows it . . . and on an issue such as this, we his constituents deserve better than an easy, self-serving, politically calculated vote that panders to panic, prejudice and paranoia.
(T. Madden and C. Elorriaga)
The Screening Process for Refugee Entry Into the United States
source - Department of Homeland Security and Whitehouse.gov