Posted by Kristin McCarthy on February 13, 2015 in Blog

Since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, AAI has advocated for increased resettlement of refugees in the United States. Last January, we were pleased to be a part of Senator Durbin’s landmark hearing on the subject that has since led to meaningful action both in Congress and in the Obama administration. Through a State Department led effort, the U.S. will accept up to 2,000 screened refugees for resettlement in 2015 – which is a huge jump from the 284 refugees resettled between 2011 and 2014. Keep in mind that 3.5 million is a modest estimate of the number of refugees displaced by the conflict, and many smaller nations are doing a lot more than the U.S. to help.

This week we saw a concerning Congressional challenge to the plan to resettle more refugees. Rep. Michael McCaul (R TX-10) spoke at a hearing held by the House Armed Services committee, which he Chairs, to voice his concern about the potential threat Syrian refugees pose to American national security after resettlement. Using fantastical language to insinuate that the resettlement increase is a “federally funded jihadi pipeline,” Rep. McCaul went to great lengths to explain why the screening process fails to address his concerns. Rep. McCaul’s concern for our vetting process is nothing more than a convenient vehicle for promoting his greater goal of closing our borders to all immigrants and is egregious in its Islamophobic tone.

There is little debate over the seriousness of the challenge in screening refugees for resettlement. Not only is resettlement restricted to the most vulnerable – mainly women and children – it is also a closely monitored science. Ned Price,  a spokesman for the National Security Council, recently reinforced that “our screening protocol for refugees are rigorous, continually redefined, and build on years of experience vetting individuals coming to the United States from around the work…they permit us to proceed in a way that seeks to both safeguard public safety and serve our mission of providing refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

Rep. McCaul and his colleagues’ challenge to U.S. resettlement efforts for Syrian refugees, is keeping in line with the embarrassing American tradition of misplaced xenophobia. Our Representatives would do better to reflect a different, more proud American tradition engraved on the plaque held by Lady Liberty,

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!