First, a little inside baseball — at my own site The Hayride, which is a political blog mostly covering events in Louisiana, this is the busiest week in our six-year history and Tuesday was far and away the busiest day. And what drove that traffic was a story, originally reported by WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge that we picked up on, about a Syrian refugee dropped into Baton Rouge and settled there by Catholic Charities who decided to take his destiny, and his whereabouts, in his own hands.
The migrant in question apparently chose to link up with family in the Washington, D.C. area, and after initial reports that he was missing, Catholic Charities and the Louisiana State Police took pains to inform the public that there was no cause for alarm. And there is no reason to believe that isn’t true.
But what the story, and the viral reaction to it, exposed is something that was but a mild irritation under previous presidents and a plague of public distrust under this one.
Refugees, after all, are not prisoners. Once they’re given asylum in America they’re not watched as though they’re criminals or suspects, and thus it’s not the job of Catholic Charities to track them. One would hope the State Department or some other arm of the federal government would be around to keep tabs on those people coming to America under color of asylum rather than regular immigration, but as it has usually been assumed that people wishing to come to the United States are doing so out of a desire to partake of our freedom and prosperity and moreover to contribute to it, we have traditionally operated out of a sense of confidence that, outside of cases that involved espionage and therefore a law enforcement presence, there would be no reason to treat refugees with suspicion or control.
And in fact, one of the proud parts of Catholic Charities’ history was their work in helping to settle refugees from Soviet Communism in the United States during the Cold War; while there were undoubtedly the occasional agents of the KGB or other Communist-bloc spy agencies embedded in the refugee populations, America on balance greatly benefited from taking in Russians, Poles, Cubans, Vietnamese, and other escapees of tyranny under the red menace.
Things have changed now, though, and the American people no longer have much trust in the benevolence of new acquaintances from the world’s most terrible places. And that’s why a small story about a missing Syrian becomes a sizable donnybrook overnight.
Why would the American people believe that taking Syrian refugees is a good idea? We already have had what can only be described as a bad experience with Somali refugees, a 20-year failed experiment in taking in people from perhaps the world’s worst country that has resulted in near-unanimous welfare dependence, cultural alienation, and a growing allegiance among that population to Islamist terror groups like Al-Shabaab.
Moreover, Syria is a much larger problem than Somalia. Somalis’ participation in the global jihad has consisted largely of engaging in piracy off the coast of Somalia, something relatively easily controlled with the right amount of violence visited upon them by the U.S. Navy and its international colleagues. With ISIS in Syria, though, there is a far higher level of sophistication in terms of clandestine operations and terrorism. ISIS repeatedly boasts to us that it is coming for us, and in the wake of the Paris attacks, which are clearly ISIS-inspired if not ISIS-planned by Syrian refugees, there is no reason for Americans not to take that threat seriously.
Bringing in migrants from Syria might be a wonderfully humanitarian thing to do, but our own intelligence community warns that there is a deficit of information from which to vet those who would come to our shores as refugees. The European experience shows many of the refugees aren’t even Syrian, and the ease by which terrorists can mingle with real refugees and escape the vetting our president claims he’ll subject the refugees to makes this a simple bit of logic — the more refugees you take in from a country overrun by Islamic jihadists, the more Islamic jihadists you’re going to end up with in your midst.
Were the president even remotely concerned about his credibility with the American people and therefore acting to insure our confidence that he’s committed to fighting the war against radical Islam to a victorious conclusion, there might be some trust that those refugees could be brought here without an unacceptable risk. But not only does Barack Obama bristle at such an obligation, he taunts those who remind him of it. In a press conference from Turkey, a country where at a soccer game the fans booed and chanted “Allahu Akbar” (“Our god is greater!”) when asked for a moment of silence in memory of Paris, Obama brushed off question after question about radical Islam, denigrated the concepts of “American leadership” and “American victory,” and saved his heated rhetoric for those who criticize his plans to bring in tens of thousands of questionably vetted refugees from Syria.
He’s not just absent. In fact, he’s not absent at all. He is ever-present and demonstrably part of the problem.
Given that, it’s no wonder that 31 governors, not all of them Republicans, see the Syrian refugee program as a proverbial soup sandwich and want no part of it. And it’s no wonder that Congress is considering de-funding the program.
And it’s no wonder the Internet is full of people wanting to know where that missing Syrian is, because they rightfully have no faith whatsoever in Barack Obama’s government to protect us from him if he should turn out to be one of the terrorists after all.
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