Albright to Trump: Nuts to your refugee scheme

January 27, 2017

Church & State, Culture, Uncategorized

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Madeleine Albright

President Trump is out-pacing a cheetah in his race to upend American ideals. Remember that phrase, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”? Forget it. He’s maneuvering to cut the refugee flow from some Muslim countries, spoon-feeding ISIS fodder for its propaganda machine.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright is having none of it. She posted a gem on her Facebook page, complete with allusions to her flight from Czechoslovakia. I quote her in full, then follow-up with complimentary 2015 releases from the National Association of Evangelicals and the US Catholic bishops.

From Madam Secretary:

Most of you have seen the draft executive order on immigration and refugees that the President is expected to sign. If signed as written, it would ban Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspend the entire refugee program for 120 days, cut in half the number of refugees we can admit, and halt all travel from certain Muslim countries.

Having looked at the draft, I felt I had no choice but to speak out against it in the strongest possible terms.

In doing so, I want to make three points.

First, it is a cruel measure that represents a stark departure from America’s core values. We have a proud tradition of sheltering those fleeing violence and persecution, and have always been the world leader in refugee resettlement. As a refugee myself who fled the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, I personally benefited from this country’s generosity and its tradition of openness. This order would end that tradition, and discriminate against those fleeing a brutal civil war in Syria. It does not represent who we are as a country.

Second, this measure would directly harm our security interests. As you all know, the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East poses an extraordinary threat to the stability of that region and to our allies in Europe. We need to be doing more, not less, to alleviate the problem – and one important way to do that is to accept a modest number of thoroughly vetted refugees. The signing of this executive order would send a terrible signal to our allies in Europe and in the Middle East, who will now have an excuse to do less. It will also be a gift to ISIS, which has been telling Muslims around the world that the west is their enemy. I have no doubt they will use this order as propaganda to support that claim.

Third, there is no data to support the idea that refugees pose a threat. This policy is based on fear, not facts. The refugee vetting process is robust and thorough. It already consists of over 20 steps, ensuring that refugees are vetted more intensively than any other category of traveler.

The process typically takes 18-24 months, and is conducted while they are still overseas. I am concerned that this order’s attempts at “extreme vetting” will effectively halt our ability to accept anyone at all. . When the administration makes wild claims about Syrian refugees pouring over our borders, they are relying on alternative facts – or as I like to call it, fiction.

The truth is that America can simultaneously protect the security of our borders and our citizens and maintain our country’s long tradition of welcoming those who have nowhere else to turn. These goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are the obligation of a country built by immigrants.

Refugees should not be viewed as a certain burden or potential terrorists. They have already made great contributions to our national life. Syrian refugees are learning English, getting good jobs, buying homes, and starting businesses. In other words, they are doing what other generations of refugees – including my own – did. And I have no doubt that, if given the opportunity, they will become an essential part of our American fabric.

Yesterday, I tweeted about my own background. I was raised a Catholic, married an Episcopalian and then found out I was Jewish. I said in my tweet that should a registry of Muslims be instituted by this administration, I would add my name to such a list.

Such a registry is not included in the language of this order, but by targeting Muslim-majority countries for immigration bans and by expressing a clear preference for refugees who are religious minorities, there’s no question this order is biased against Muslims. And when one faith is targeted, it puts us all at risk.

When I came here as a child, I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and seeing the Statue of Liberty. It proclaims “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty, and today she is weeping because of the actions of President Trump.

#RefugeesWelcome

 The National Association of Evangelicals statement came in the wake of terrorist attacks:

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) calls for the United States to continue distinguishing between terrorists and the victims of terrorism when deciding refugee policy.

“Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS,” said Leith Anderson, NAE president.

“We are horrified and heartbroken by the terrorist atrocities in Paris, but must not forget that there are thousands more victims of these same terrorists who are fleeing Syria with their families and desperately need someplace to go,” he said.

The United States has a strong track record for screening refugee applicants, having processed more than three million refugees over the past four decades. It is more thorough and careful than the screening for tourist and student visas to the United States. A tourist with a French passport does not need screening or a visa; a refugee from Syria must pass multiple careful tests for eligibility.

As evangelicals we care about those in need one-person-at-a-time and urge our government to carefully screen individual refugees but not exclude a class of refugees from one or two countries where they have suffered. Anderson said, “Our system is designed to keep terrorists out and to help desperate families with little children. We want to help the victims of terrorism in the Middle East, not punish them.”

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, said this after the same terrorist attacks:

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the November 13 attacks in Paris, France and to the French people. I add my voice to all those condemning these attacks and my support to all who are working to ensure such attacks do not occur again—both in France and around the world.

I am disturbed, however, by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.

Moreover, refugees to this country must pass security checks and multiple interviews before entering the United States—more than any arrival to the United States. It can take up to two years for a refugee to pass through the whole vetting process. We can look at strengthening the already stringent screening program, but we should continue to welcome those in desperate need.

Instead of using this tragedy to scapegoat all refugees, I call upon our public officials to work together to end the Syrian conflict peacefully so the close to 4 million Syrian refugees can return to their country and rebuild their homes. Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive. As a great nation, the United States must show leadership during this crisis and bring nations together to protect those in danger and bring an end to the conflicts in the Middle East.

To sum up, the president is ignoring the American way and the sentiments of many Christian leaders. Which means everything’s normal on Day 7 in our new little world.

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About Charles Redfern

Charles Redfern is a writer, activist, and clergyman living in Connecticut with his wife and family. He's currently writing two books, with more in his head.

View all posts by Charles Redfern

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