“As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one”

I don’t know whether President Obama is doing everything right in addressing the ISIS/Daesh threat. I depart from some liberal friends on police use of metadata and other security matters. I am, however, reassured by the President’s calm solidity, which presents such a contrast with pandering and posturing politicians looking to score political points in the aftermath of an atrocity.

I don’t know what to say about presidential candidates and governors who would take in only Christian refugees in the wake of the agony in Syria and the Paris attacks. The United States faces a quite-manageable security threat from the refugees we have agreed to admit. Hiding in plain sight, our simplest anti-terrorism policy is our most effective: Embrace people from every religion and community, and ensure their equality and success in American life. It would be a huge mistake, not to mention an equally huge betrayal of our national ideals, to back away from that.

In any event, the openly-expressed anti-Muslim sentiments directed against refugees in recent days bring back memories, and not good ones.

No room at the Inn
No room at the Inn

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

33 thoughts on ““As we have no real racial problem, we are not desirous of importing one””

  1. France thought they had a manageable security problem. They learned otherwise. You're simply demanding that we be incapable of learning from their experience.

    Let me lay out the consequences of importing these 'refugees': Probably not one in a hundred is an actual disguised terrorist. Maybe one in a thousand. Most are just ordinary guys looking for a better life. IOW, NOT "refugees", just "migrants".

    So we'll only be bringing in 100-1000 committed terrorists using the migrants as cover. Mixed in with 100,000 people from the cultures that nurtured and support ISIS, where what passes for moderate would turn an ACLU member's hair white.

    Then, some time next year, Paris happens here. This isn't much in the way of speculation, it's essentially certain. It WILL happen, and you're deluding yourself if you think otherwise.

    And all hope of your "simplest anti-terrorism policy" goes up in smoke, and the people whom rejection of it would transform into terrorists are already here.

    No. The simplest anti-terrorism policy is to refuse to admit these migrants, who we know damned well are mixed with terrorists. If we must help them, help them in place. But not here.

    You want to know why ISIS thinks they can win? Look in a mirror. You'll see the answer: They see a foe that can't even bring itself to recognize when it's under attack, and take even the most basic precautions. They see a foe that throws it's borders open in the middle of a war, and invites in the enemy.

    They see you.

    1. Brett, I haven't read the couple of books that actually researched what IS wants yet… but I get the impression, they *want* a war with us.

      So I propose that we *do not give it to them.* We can take all kinds of defensive measures, but in no way does it make sense for us to go all in. This is a problem for Middle East people to solve, it's an ethnic civil war and I say let them handle it. I have half a mind to just tell the Kurds they can keep any part of Iraq or Syria that they find, and we'll recognize. They're the only ones who seem halfway motivated over there. So, from where I sit, you're the one falling in their trap.

    2. ISIS thinks they can win because they're deluded and your speculation as to the proportions of refugees who would be terrorists is evidence free. So far, the percentage of refugees who have turned out to be terrorists is zero. Nada. Zilch.

      Let me ask you: in what way(s) is turning Syrian refugees away dissimilar from turning away Jewish German refugees away in 1939? Both are representative of cultures in which dangerous extremism was incubated, for instance.

    3. Got any support for that lower limit of one in a thousand migrants being a terrorist hiding among their victims?

      I'm reminded of people with "airtight" business plans: "Millions of people own smartphones! If just one percent of them buy my app, I'll be rich!"

      A number pulled out your backside is just a number pulled out your backside, no matter how sincere you sound when you try to pass it off as a conservative estimate.

      (Related suggestion: I think the common usage of "conservative estimate," to mean an excessively cautious estimate, is no longer useful. A "conservative estimate" is one that's entirely made up, is entirely unsupported by facts or reason, and is put forward merely to advance a far-right political agenda.)

      1. So, what's the contrary argument here? That our screening process will be perfect? That ISIS is incapable of deciding to use in influx of migrants as a way to sneak in terrorists? Maybe that terrorists will arrive here and fall in love with the US?

        What I want to know is this: Given that we should help these people, why do we have to help them *here*? Why this relentless determination that this is the only acceptable route to a solution? Maybe you think they'll be reliable Democratic voters? That there's something awful about Muslims being well under 1% of the US population, that needs to be fixed?

        Why is this the hill you want to die on? Since we could help them somewhere else, just helping them isn't the answer, since you won't accept helping them someplace else, there's something specific about bringing them HERE that you want.

        "Let me ask you: in what way(s) is turning Syrian refugees away dissimilar from turning away Jewish German refugees away in 1939? "

        Let's see. Coming from a country that's 6-10% Christian, where the Christians are currently being genocided, (Syria is already Judenfrei.) almost all of them are Muslims.

        So, I'd say this is unlike turning away Jewish refugees during WWII, in essentially every way except that it involves turning away. We're not turning away the oppressed minority here.

        We're turning away the oppressors.

        1. So, what's the contrary argument here?

          Something that you're often fond of saying yourself: life has risks, and if you demand perfect security, you'll paralyze yourself.

          Given that we should help these people, why do we have to help them *here*?

          Where else are you planning to help them? Do you have a single shred of evidence that forcing them to stay in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan will in any way be a tolerable solution? The problem isn't so much that we couldn't help them somewhere else as that nowhere is really willing to provide a home.

          Aside from that, I come back to what I consider to be the fundamental dishonesty of your arguments at all times: I don't believe that you have the slightest desire to appropriate tax money to help them at all, anywhere, and you are just engaging in bogus posturing.

          Let's see. Coming from a country that's 6-10% Christian, where the Christians are currently being genocided, (Syria is already Judenfrei.) almost all of them are Muslims.

          In other words, you don't want to help them because they are Muslim. Which is pretty much what I thought, but it's nice to have you confirm your bigotry.

          I deal with Muslim refugees all the time; they are a significant part of the population here in the Twin Cities now. Your fears are overblown.

          1. Let me go over this again:

            There is a minority in Syria which is the target of an active, ongoing genocide campaign: Christians.

            You'd logically expect people subject to a genocide campaign to be over-represented among "refugees", right?

            Instead, they are dramatically under-represented. How could this happen?

            It happens because the people in the refugee camps, the people we're admitting, murder them. Some of them do, anyway, the others just let them.

            There are real, genuine refugees, back in Syria. We're not lifting a finger to rescue them from genocide, because we're too busy importing their oppressors.

          2. I'd like to read more about this systematic mass-murder of Syrian Christian refugees by Syrian Muslim refugees. Got a link?

          3. I started to ask whether you had any evidence of this, but the more I think about it, the less point I see. Your categorical dismissal of the idea that any of the people in the refugee camps is a genuine refugee is so loathsome and betrays such a vacuum of empathy and spirit that there's really no point.

        2. It's not hard to imagine Brett suggesting that the thing to do is to drop food packages into Auschwitz, thereby helping the prisoners "but not here."

          Do you understand that being a Muslim displaced by civil war does not make you an "oppressor?"

        3. The argument is that the screening process is sufficiently good that the risk is acceptable. It's that simple.

        4. I can't speak for others, but for me the contrary argument is that there are so many ways to get here already that this tiny window isn't going to materially change a thing. And we already have bazillions of gun nuts. Do I feel less safe from this one tiny thing? Not yet anyhow.

          That said, I find that I preliminarily agree with you on our non-need to import large numbers of Syrian refugees. We already have, what?, 12 million refugees here now and (rightwingy) people are freaking out enough already. I'm not sure I care much whether someone is an economic refugee or some other kind. People need to eat. This I get.

          Further, I find it quite odd to see large numbers of Syrian men of fighting age who apparently have washed their hands. The ones I see on telly seem to have no intention of ever going back "home." I don't condemn them for this – maybe there are no good guys? — I just find it odd and I wish there'd be more reporting. Obviously it makes sense to get every woman and girl child the bleep out of anywhere that the IS might be. But how come the men don't want to fight? When *our* military is being urged in (which I completely reject)? It's weird. And also I think many/most of them are in fact also economic refugees too. Europe is a long way to go just to get away from bombs. Again… this isn't necessarily bad, I try not to judge, no doubt I would do the same or worse… but it does (to me) affect my sense of urgency to let them in permanently.

          And frankly, if a country isn't determined to do integration right, it is better off not trying. Just my two cents.

        5. "our screening process will be perfect?"

          It doesn't have to be perfect. So long as it's at least as good as the process for, say, tourist visas, then it won't represent a new vulnerability.

          "Given that we should help these people, why do we have to help them *here*?"

          What would helping them "there" mean? Keeping them fed and clothed in a refugee camp somewhere? That's better than letting them die in the crossfire between the murderous dictator and the murderous jihadi rebels, but we can surely do better than that. These people need a new home. We've got plenty of room. Why not bring them here?

          "Maybe you think they'll be reliable Democratic voters?"

          I suppose they're more likely to vote for the major party that doesn't hate their guts, but given the numbers we're talking about it's not all that significant. Would you have been standing on the docks in 1939, turning away any Jews who didn't promise to vote Republican?

          "there's something specific about bringing them HERE that you want."

          I want to bring them here because this is a land of peace and prosperity and opportunity. It'll be good for them. Also, it's a land of immigrants, so it'll be good for us.

          "We're not turning away the oppressed minority here. We're turning away the oppressors."

          These people sure don't look like oppressors to me. They look like desperate people fleeing a civil war between two murderous factions. This is exactly like 1939. Murderous regime? Check. Desperate refugees? Check. Certain death if they remain at home? Check. A wealthy and stable country, easily capable of taking aboard every last refugee, refusing to do so because of paranoids and fearmongers and bigots?

          Check.

          1. I so wish that I felt this way about the US. I feel like that's who we *used* to be, not who we are now. I wish I could live in your US – it sounds marvelous.

            I still agree this far with Brett — it seems like a long way for people to have to go to be "safe." I don't feel like we have the room ("resources").

            Definitely though, we should protect people from harm. That's the minimum, and that much I think we can at least *help* accomplish.

        6. the oppressors remain over there, the place from which these desperate people are fleeing as fast as they can. at great cost, and at great risk to their lives these people are fleeing the twin grindstones of a dictator intent on maintaining power over as much of his country as he can and the intensely conservative salafists attempting to create a caliphate out of that same country. given that most of the people in that area are muslim it comes as no surprise that the majority of those fleeing it are also muslims. i'm not a christian and perhaps you aren't either but a quote from matthew 25 comes instantly to mind here– "I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 44"Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 45"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'"

    4. In the USA, refugees are vetted better than any other type of traveler or immigrant. Seriously, do some research on what goes into refugee vetting. Why on earth would Daesh use the incredibly slow refugee process, which only accepts a tremendously small proportion of applicants even before factoring in the background checks, when it's far easier to get to the US in any number of other ways?

  2. We should vet refugees as strenuously and oppressively as we vet people who want to purchase guns. That'll stop the bad guys. And if it doesn't, when a refugee shoots up an elementary school, movie theater, college or political rally, it won't be terrorism, just an "atrocity" that we can't do anything about. That should make us all feel better.

  3. "We're turning away the oppressors"

    Yeah. Because all Muslims are the same, including three-year old orphans. I'd say you can't make this up, except that it's clear you can.

    1. Why are we taking in Germans? Germans are the oppressors! What difference does it make that some German is a Jew and not a Nazi? A German's a German. How can Germans be fleeing Germans? It doesn't make any sense.

    2. Yes, we're turnning away the oppressors, because *if these 'refugees' weren't the oppressors, the Christians, (Who are the victims of an ongoing genocide in Syria!) would be among them.*

      They're not among them, because they get murdered if they try to enter the 'refugee' camps.

      So, yeah, the 'refugees' here are the oppressors. Perhaps no the only oppressors, (The middle east is an oppressor rich environment.) but willing enough to kill the real victims in the Middle East, the real analogs to Jews during WWII, who you don't want to acknowledge:

      The Christians, who are being murdered wholesale.

      1. there are a lot of people in this area being murdered wholesale, primarily the sunni majority who are being ground to dust in the fight between the alawite led syrian army and the salafist led army of isis. the fact that christians are being murdered wholesale does no obviate the fact that even more muslims are also being murdered wholesale. the isis fighters are not the ones fleeing the fighting.

        your style of debate never wavers, does it mr. bellmore? you pick one thing you think you know and you stick to that point despite anything else that comes your way. despite morality, despite, humanity, despite ethics, despite logic and reason. in this case, despite all the wholesale murder being carried out against christians, muslims, jews, atheists, and members of any other faiths who lived and are now killed in the region, to you there are no deserving victims besides christians and, apparently, to hell with the rest. i'm not a member of any faith community but your casual attitude towards the deaths of anyone other than christians is out of line with the tenets of the christian faith. christ comes to you as a stranger and you refuse at all cost to take him in. in the words of christ from the same passage–"they will go away to eternal punishment, . . ."

        1. Why did I bring this up? Because Harold analogized turning away these 'refugees' to turning away Jewish refugees during WWII.

          Turning away Jewish refugees during WWII was particularly bad because Jews were to target of a genocide during WWII.

          But, there is a genocide going on in Syria, Christians are the target. Not Muslims, Christians.

          *And these refugees aren't Christian.* Conspicuously, they're not Christians! Disproportionately they're not Christians.

          That makes it a piss poor analogy, because the central characteristic that the analogy rests on for it's force is missing.

          Is it so painful to admit the analogy doesn't fit?

          1. "Turning away Jewish refugees during WWII was particularly bad because Jews were to target of a genocide during WWII."

            So close! Keep trying. Turning away refugees during WWII was bad because they were desperate people who faced likely death if we didn't help them, and it was easily within our power to help them. It was politically possible to not help them because they were foreigners of a religion toward which bigotry in those days was widespread and socially acceptable. People looked hard for reasons to be scared, and being so motivated, found some that seemed reasonable to them at the time. And they whined about "those people" resisting "assimilation."

            Your arguments, such as they are, all boil down to: "The people eighty years ago were wrong to let the fashionable bigotry of their day lead them to turn their backs on desperate refugees. We today, however, don't indulge in the fashionable bigotry of the past. We have entirely new fashionable bigotry that is totally okay, and so it's fine for us to turn our backs on today's desperate refugees."

          2. They are not, for the most part, Christians. They are just people who are being dispossessed, driven from their homes, robbed, raped, killed, etc. But hey, they're not Christians, as if that's the critical issue.

            In WWII would you have accepted Jewish refugees and turned away Christians persecuted by the Nazis, on similar logic? Don't bother answering. You would have impartially turned them all away, for the same stupid reasons that so many gave back then.

          3. In WWII, if a ship full of military aged, male, blonde blue eyed Aryans had set out from Germany, paused in mid-ocean to drown a few Jews who'd managed to sneak on board, and then showed up on the East coast, requesting refugee status?

            We might have put them in a POW camp instead of sinking the ship, appreciating that it was the enemy's draft they were evading. But anyone characterising turning them away as the same as refusing entry to Jews escaping the Holocaust would have been laughed at, or maybe slated for a mental exam.

            The analog to WWII Jews today isn't Muslims, it's Christians. (Only because the Syrians finished their genocide of the Jews.) The people not at all accidently under-represented among the refugees.

            I don't blame them for wanting to leave Syria. War is Hell, even if you're not on the list for the death camps. But they're not leaving for the US from a war zone, so they've already gotten refuge. And I don't blame them for wanting to find a better life.

            But we're not obligated to provide it.

          4. ISIS is brutal, but accusing them of genocide implies that they murder every Christian they can get their hands on, and unless ISIS policy has changed recently, that is simply not the case. Furthermore, I haven't seen any evidence that ISIS treats Christians worst than it treats Muslims who fail to adhere to their particular interpretation if Islam. If anything, I would expect the reverse to be true.

          5. Sheesh. Just can't admit there's a genocide of Christians going on? If ISIS doesn't have a magic button they can press that makes every Christian drop dead in their tracks, there can't be a genocide?

            There were Jews still living in Nazi Germany at the end of WWII, so I guess the Holocaust didn't happen?

            You're in denial about this, that's all.

          6. Your argument makes no sense. Let's say that all Christians in the Middle East war zone are being oppressed. It's an elementary error, as you well know, to say that therefore all people being oppressed are Christians.

            And we are still waiting for your evidence that Christians are being systematically killed by other refuges in the camps. Have you seen this yourself? If not, how can you be sure?

          7. Can you provide any substantiation of this? So far, it's lack has been glaringly apparent. That's aside from the issue of blaming the people running away from Daesh for Daesh's actions.

          8. I'm ready to change my opinion on all of this, in the event that you can show that the muslim refugees are systematically butchering the christian refugees. Have you got anything at all? Even some weaksauce link to Alex Jones or something? Anything?

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