Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz has proposed legislation that would bar the entry into the United States of Syrian Muslim refugees, while allowing a safe American haven to fleeing Syrian Christians. President Obama has already announced his intention to veto this bill.
It is always regrettable when legislation must be passed to bar the immigration of a certain religious or ethnic group. In this case, however, America has no choice. America is at war with ISIS, and the large scale immigration of Syrian Muslim refugees provides a gateway for ISIS terrorist infiltrators to enter the United States.
If there was a reliable vetting process regarding Syrian Muslim immigrants to screen out potential ISIS infiltrators, I would oppose the Cruz bill. Obama administration intelligence and law enforcement officials admit, however, the futility of trying to implement such a system. They confirm that screening Syrian refugees is impossible, since the FBI and Homeland Security Department have no data on Syrians — no fingerprints, arrest records, travel data — to indicate what these people did in Syria, or even whether they are who they claim to be.
FBI Director James Comey forthrightly stated to Congress, “There won’t be anything in our database. So I can’t sit here and offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”
By contrast, there is no risk to our national security in allowing the immigration of Syrian Christians, a community which has been subject to horrific violent widespread persecution by ISIS and is indeed threatened with genocide. As Cruz noted, “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror. If there were a group of radical Christians pledging to murder anyone who had a different religious view than they, we would have a different national security situation.”
Thus, passage of the Cruz bill is not a matter of policy discretion but one of absolute national security necessity to prevent ISIS infiltrators from creating American catastrophes such as the Paris murders and the tragedy of the Boston Marathon. Those who object to the legislation on civil rights grounds must keep in mind that the first civil right of Americans is to be free from violence, whether from foreign or domestic sources.
Various advocates have asserted that the legislation runs contrary to the purpose and intent, if not the letter, of the United States Constitution “Religious Test” and Equal Protection clauses. Both these objections are without merit.
The religious test, set forth in Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution, states the following:
“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
The religious test applies to offices and positions of public trust. It does not apply to the status of prospective immigrants who live outside the United States.
The Equal Protection Clause, set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1868, provides that no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction “the equal protection of the laws”. It does not apply to inhabitants of nations outside the United States.
Finally, there is a personal point which I must make, having lost a substantial number of extended family members in the Holocaust.
There is nothing I find more obscene and offensive than the comparison between the situation of Syrian Muslim refugee children and the deadly plight of Jewish children in the Holocaust. Over the last seven decades, Muslim clerics throughout the Middle East have preached a message of war against the State of Israel and extermination of its Jewish inhabitants – all in the name of concern and caring for their Palestinian Arab kinsmen. If Arabs and Muslims care so much about their Palestinian kinsmen and co-religionists, why cannot they provide succor and shelter for these Syrian Muslim children and their families? Why does America have to jeopardize its security and provide a gateway to the infiltration of ISIS terrorists by facilitating the entry of Syrian Muslim refugees?
The Jewish children in Eastern Europe and their parents had no place to find refuge. Their fate was extermination by the Nazis in the gas chambers and crematoria of the Holocaust. Any comparison between their fate and the situation of Syrian Muslim refugees is contemptible and despicable.
In a time of national trauma after the Paris ISIS terrorist massacres, Americans fear for their personal safety more than at any time since 9-11. President Obama’s response regarding fears of ISIS infiltration among Syrian Muslim refugees was to say the following:
“The idea that somehow they pose a more significant threat than all the tourists who pour into the United States every single day just doesn’t jive with reality.”
Such a response, coupled with Obama’s previous labeling of ISIS as a “JV squad” and the Paris massacres as a “setback” reinforces the image of the President as being out of touch with the fears and concerns of the American public. There are two responses candidates for president can make.
One is the Donald Trump approach, which requires a system to register and track Muslims in the United States. This would constitute the worst American civil liberties violation of any ethnic constituency since the internment camps for Japanese-Americans residing on the Pacific Coast during World War II.
The Ted Cruz approach is reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, focusing on the main priority of national security. He has expressly rejected the Trump Muslim registration and tracking proposal. He also has refrained from any proposal to bar Muslim immigration from other Middle East Muslim nations, such as Jordan and Egypt. His Syrian Muslim proposal is one simply to prevent ISIS terrorists’ entry into the United States under the cover of being Syrian Muslim refugees. By his proposed legislation, Ted Cruz has taken the leadership role on the major American public concern in the war against ISIS, namely, proving safety and security for the homeland without resorting to anti-Islamic bigotry. President Obama’s anticipated veto of this legislation will only increase support for this measure and enhance the chances of Ted Cruz being elected as the 45th President of the United States.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.