While details are still emerging from the terrorist attacks in Paris last week, there are growing concerns here at home about our own safety and security. And it seems that one of the biggest topics of concern now has turned to the Syrian refugees coming to the U.S.
Usually when we see a terrorist attack carried out anywhere in the world by a Muslim, neoCons want to immediately point the finger of blame at the entire religion. Well this time, they are not only trying to use fear tactics to turn Americans against Muslims, but also to turn us against all of the refugees who are fleeing Syria from the very sort of violence that we saw play out in Paris.
Several of the Republican presidential hopefuls have said that the U.S. screening process should only allow in Syrian Christians. And by Monday evening a long list of mostly Republican governors had put out statements saying that they refused to permit any Syrian refugees into their states.
But here’s the problem….those fear mongering Republicans and their states don’t have a choice.
First of all, these state governors have no legal authority to dictate immigration policy to the President. According to the Supreme Court in Hines v. Davidowitz, “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.”
Not only does the Constitution assure that states cannot overrule the Federal Government on this, but President Obama also has explicit authority to accept these Syrian refugees under the Refugee Act of 1980. Under this act, President Obama can accept refugees who are facing “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” – especially if there is an “unforeseen emergency refugee situation,” like there clearly is in this case.
Cecillia Wang, from the American Civil Liberties Union, gave a statement Monday condemning politicians who were fabricating a connection between the Paris attacks and the Syrian refugees settling in the U.S. She said,
“Making policy based on this fear mongering is wrong for two reasons. It is factually wrong for blaming refugees for the very terror they are fleeing, and it is legally wrong because it violates our laws and the values on which our country was founded.”
Another thing worth noting is that there is already a rigorous screening process in place, regardless of what you might be hearing from the Republicans.
According to Penn State Law professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia,
“It’s been misleading for leaders of States to apply what happened in Paris to would-be refugees who may come to the U.S. There is a significant screening process to take before individuals are admitted.”
“Refugee admissions are set by the President and guided by federal law. States play a role in working with the federal government when refugees are resettled, but the overarching authority rests in federal law.”
“The people who are coming to the U.S. as refugees are fleeing from the very same perpetrators who committed the acts in Paris. There is a real disconnect and lack of compassion when trying to respond to the Paris attacks by endangering the most vulnerable.”