Hogan on refugees: More Goldilocks than Big, Bad Wolf

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A version of this column will appear in the December issue of The Business Monthly out Dec. 1.

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

A family submitting an application at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees registration center in Tripoli-Lebanon in 2014. By Mohamed Azakir, World Bank Photo-Collection with Flickr Creative Commons License.

A family submitting an application at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees registration center in Tripoli, Lebanon in 2014. By Mohamed Azakir, World Bank Photo-Collection with Flickr Creative Commons License.

 

I was sitting in my grandson’s 2nd grade classroom in Arbutus on Tuesday for American Education Week, perusing e-mails on my iPhone while the kids made geometric figures with toothpicks and little marshmallows ? those that they didn’t eat ? when I got the statement from the governor’s office.

“As governor of Maryland, the safety and security of Marylanders remains my first priority,” said the e-mail. “Following the terrorist attacks on Paris just four days ago, and after careful consideration, I am now requesting that federal authorities cease any additional settlements of refugees from Syria in Maryland, until the U.S. government can provide appropriate assurances that refugees from Syria pose no threat to public safety.”

It sounded different in tone and substance than what other Republican governors had said. It was not a demand, there was no threat to withhold benefits, and the request seemed reasonable. Hogan was asking for reassurances his constituents would be safe.

Diatribes from left and right

Then came the much longer diatribe from the America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland, which was “deeply saddened by Governor Larry Hogan’s request that the federal government not allow any more Syrian refugees to come to Maryland, a decision that goes against our common humanity.”

It went on to call the decision “immoral” and “blatantly illegal,” because federal law governs immigration. Which may be why Hogan was asking the federal government for assurances.

On the drive home, I was listening to talk radio and heard Republican Delegate Pat McDonough, the legislature’s premier immigrant basher, lambasting the Republican governor for his wimpy response. Then when I got home, I got a call from McDonough himself, whom I’ve known since the early 1980s when he was a Democratic delegate from East Baltimore (only his party and location have changed, not his populist politics).

McDonough wanted Hogan to totally ban Syrian refugees, and to deny state benefits to any who came.

Then as the day went on, Democrats piled on against Hogan’s stance. “Not just heartless … [but] a betrayal of America’s values,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, running for U.S. Senate, said, “It is shameful that Governor Hogan and others would seek to exploit peoples’ justifiable safety concerns by further fueling their fears. We can protect our security and uphold our values by carefully vetting refugees fleeing the horror of ISIS. Leadership requires soberly confronting the facts, not a stampede toward demagoguery.”

The Van Hollen email was headlined, “Statement on Hogan Request to Close the Door to Syrian Refugees.”

Other Democrats responded in a similar vein, but it seemed that the anti-immigrant McDonoughs of the world had much more to complain about than the Democrats, who seemed caught up in their own demagoguery.

A Goldilocks statement

Then I got an e-mail from Nikki Gamer, a former WYPR producer now at Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Baltimore headquarters of international relief efforts of the U.S. Catholic Church. She put me in touch with Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy for CRS.

We in the Kelley-Lazarick household are big fans of, and medium-size donors to, CRS, and not just because it was long headed by Ken Hackett, a fellow Boston College alum who is now U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

CRS has folks on the ground all over the globe, both American and native. They are super efficient, have low administrative costs and, by the way, they get the bulk of their funding from the U.S. government, which knows that all the religious relief organizations are much more efficient than federal bureaucrats.

What O’Keefe told me has now been reiterated by many other independent sources familiar with U.S. immigration policy and practice.

Only about 2,300 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States “through an extensive vetting process” that takes 18 months to two years. “It’s so long that it’s a problem.” Most of them have lived in refugee camps. These are not the folks who have entered Europe illegally through Greece. “If there any red flags, people are excluded,” he said.

White House defends system

Later Tuesday evening, the White House sought to reassure the governors in a conference call with top administration officials in charge of the vetting. Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford was on the line.

According to the White House: “The call lasted almost 90 minutes, including an extensive question and answer session among the governors and administration officials. The officials briefed the governors on the rigorous screening and security vetting process that is required before a refugee is able to travel to the United States. Thirteen governors asked questions.

“The administration officials reiterated what the President has made abundantly clear: that his top priority is the safety of the American people. That’s why, even as the United States accepts more refugees — including Syrians — we do so only after they undergo the most rigorous screening and security vetting of any category of traveler to the United States.”

Other sources disagree with the effectiveness of the immigration process, such as Republican Richard Douglas in a Maryland Reporter commentary, a former counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, now running for the Senate in Maryland.

“The President ignores the fact that U.S. immigration systems have been so badly damaged by his own lawlessness that Americans do not trust the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to vet anyone,” writes Douglas. “Indeed, DHS can hardly manage its internal paper flow, much less migrant flows into our nation.”

Few problems with refugees

Only a few people from Syria or Iraq who came to the U.S. under the refugee program have even committed crimes, no less terrorism. True, the U.S. has scant means for checking the validity of the Syrian refugee claims, but most terrorists are young and single, not married with children. And most are native, as was the case in Paris. Some of these terrorists had been to Syria, but they grew up in France or Belgium.

Our terrorists are likely to be Americans. Yes, some are Muslim, like the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, who grew up here and went to American schools. And they were not refugees; they initially entered the country on tourist visas.

Hogan’s statement was a middle ground likely supported by many Marylanders. Did Hogan or his staff know of the refugee vetting process or trust it? Hard to say, but he certainly recognizes that no governor can tell immigrants they can’t come to his state once the federal government lets them in. And as the ACLU shouts out, they can’t be discriminated against due to race, religion or country of origin.

Democrats are likely to turn any small stick into a club against Hogan, especially now that his cancer is in remission. And the Republican far right is not likely to be happy with a position that seeks the kind of middle political ground that got Hogan elected.

  • Dale McNamee

    It only took 19 Islamic terrorists to kill 3,000 Americans, 2 Islamic terrorists to kill and injure Americans as the Boston Marathon ended…

    Other Islamic terrorists tried to plant bombs in Times Square…

    And there’s no way to”vet” these “refugees” since the systems that are used here to perform background and criminal checks don’t exist in Syria, Bangladesh, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc.
    ISIS has stated that they will infiltrate the “refugees” and said “refugees” have been over 70% military age males… Not women, elderly, and children…

    So, why should Maryland accept them ?

    We have enough problems with the illegal aliens from Mexico and Central and South America…

    • Richard

      How much of a sacrifice do you want from the Syrians.? They have lost hundreds of thousands of lives by the terror of government and the radical terrorists, displaced from their homes and now rejected by the world just because of their faith and skin color. I wonder if this was happening in our state how you would want our neighboring states to respond to people who were displaced from communities where criminals, gangs and drug lords resided. I guess, you would turn your back on them as well. I am ashamed to say I am a citizen of this state with such hate and fear being promoted. For all who use Chritianity as a justification for their actions have they now decided to say that the Gospel is no longer relevant today. Matthew 5.

      • Dale McNamee

        I love you tolerant,sensitive types who fall for the taqiyya promulgated by the Muslims… Have you read the Koran, the Hadith, and the various Commentaries?

        I have and if you did, you’d change your mind… Also, ISIS has said that they plan to send their members along with the “refugees”… Looking at the news feeds from Europe, it looks like the “Black Friday” mobs at the stores.. . Ever hear of “Hijira” (sp) ? That’s another way for conquest by swamping countries with themselves…

        Why aren’t the other Muslim countries in the Middle East taking care of their fellow Muslims as their faith teaches ? Why should the West be responsible ?

        Our Judeo-Christian heritage makes us charitable… Islam as practiced doesn’t promote charity… Also, in the Islamic culture, they live off the labor of “infidels”…

        Even Syrians who have been in America for decades don’t think that accepting “refugees” who haven’t been checked out…

        I would offer asylum to Syrian Christians and the Yazidi…

        Every refugee in the past was investigated and verified before being granted asylum…

        Dob’t try to pull a “moral equivalence” between people escaping drug violence and the hijrah being foisted upon us…

        People who live in drug infested neighborhoods can move, can assist the police and face

      • Tully

        It is a red herring to say they are rejected for their faith and skin color.
        The Governor made no such statement.

        They are temporarily delayed because there is a reasonable concern of infiltration by ISIS.

        The Feds have made their case to the States.
        Lets see if they changed any minds.

    • Lilith

      Not to mention that Obomba’s own intelligence agencies are telling him that there is no way they can vet these potential terrorists, & that they will infiltrate any incoming actual refugees. I’ve been hearing reports that he won’t even listen/read daily updates about what’s going on w/ certain things anymore, & this is one of those “things”.

      • Dale McNamee

        I agree… All the more reason to be cautious to the point of stopping the flow until we can “vet” these “refugees”…

        Governor Hogan is right in what he’s doing !

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