Rascovar on playing refugee politics

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By Barry Rascovar

For MarylandReporter.com

Zaatari camp in Jordan for Syrian refugees. Estimated populations in March, 83,000. Photo from Wikipedia

Zaatari camp in Jordan for Syrian refugees. Estimated population in March, 83,000. Photo from Wikipedia

Playing to the public’s worst fears is the thing to do if you’re a Republican politician these days, be it Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Jr., Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Ted Cruz. It boosts your poll ratings.

Panic-mongering is in vogue inside the GOP.

Trump approves of beating up dissenters at his events, torturing Muslim terrorists, barring all Syrian refugees from this country, making U.S. Syrians register (but no yellow badge sewn to their clothing) and closing U.S. mosques.

Carson also wants to look at closing mosques, forcing Muslims to register and carry a special ID that notes their religion. He suggests suspected Muslim bad guys deserve the same fate as “a rabid dog.”

Rubio wants to shut down any place where Muslims might conspire – mosques, cafes, diners and Internet sites. No Syrian refugees would be allowed in the U.S. He even invented a new adjective to describe our dire situation: “civilizational struggle.”

Syrian Christians, but no Muslims

Cruz wants to bar Middle Eastern Muslims, especially Syrian Muslims (97% percent of the country’s population) but he’d let the U.S. take in Christian Syrians because “Christians are being crucified right now.”

Xenophobia and Islamophobia dominate GOP rhetoric – even on the state level. Hogan joined fellow Republican governors in announcing he’d refuse to accept Syrian refugees in Maryland who are fleeing the ISIS-Assad violence for fear they’d be terrorists.

He and the other GOP governors politicized the issue by asserting the Obama administration does a slipshod job vetting these refugees.

It would have helped if Hogan first had checked his facts. The vetting process is rigorous and takes 12 to 24 months.

Ignoring facts

But Hogan and the other GOP governors don’t care about facts. They’d rather put out false allegations and keep saying they’re true.

Hogan also decided to ignore another simple fact: He has no power to stop the president from re-locating Syrian refugees in Maryland. He can’t close Maryland’s borders.

Indeed, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake quickly announced she wants the president to bring refugees to Baltimore. Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and the entire County Council did the same thing. Sure, these were political slaps at Hogan, but it served to illustrate the widely divergent views on refugee politics between Democrats and Republicans.

A total of 43 Syrian refugees have previously re-settled in Baltimore. Not one has been revealed as a terrorist. They have been assimilated into the community without any problems.

Should they be deported for their religious beliefs or where they come from?

Hogan needs to clarify his position and explain precisely why this new batch of refugees, most of them women and children fleeing ISIS-Assad violence, are so dangerous to the welfare of Maryland citizens.

While Hogan’s anti-refugee stance puts him in lockstep with his fellow Republican governors, it is hardly what one would expect from the husband of a Korean immigrant.

Immigrants are especially sensitive to the plight of other people fleeing violence and religious oppression who see America as a safe harbor where their children can have a better life.

Hogan would do well to read carefully a letter he received from state Del. Kirill Reznik of Montgomery County on this topic.

Another refugee story

Here’s what Reznik wrote in his pre-Thanksgiving Day letter:

“In the late 1970s, my family was granted refugee status to come to the United States from the country I was born in, the Soviet Union. You might recall it was the height of the Cold War and the Soviet Union was our mortal enemy.

“History tells us that the Soviets had over 40,000 nuclear warheads pointed at the United States, a far deadlier prospect than anything [ISIS] can offer. And yet, we came. Maybe it helped that our skin was white and our religion was Judaism. Nevertheless, the suspicion leveled at us when we arrived – our motivations for coming, our loyalties to our former country – was something that even a 5-year old boy clutching his mother’s skirt as she went for job interviews at the local diner could feel.

“History also teaches us that this is not the first time that we, as Americans, have betrayed our promise to the world when we accepted the Statue of Liberty as a gift from our French friends. We told the world to ‘give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ I guess we added the asterisks later. . . .

“Since September 11, 2001, the United States has accepted over 700,000 refugees from the Middle East and South and Central Asia. Yet, the most acts of terror have come from home grown evil. People like Wade Michael Page who opened fire on a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin because he thought they were Muslim; Jim David Adkisson who shot up a Unitarian Church in Knoxville because they supported marriage equality; Joseph Stack who flew a plane into the IRS building in Austin; and, most recently, Dylann Roof who shot up an AME Church in Charleston, and on and on. Not to mention the countless terrorists who walk armed and unimpeded onto schools and university campuses on what feels like a weekly basis.

“The people running to Europe and the United States are begging for refuge, hence the term, refugees. I remember what that was like. So, as we all sit down to eat turkey and watch football in a couple of weeks, maybe we can do something truly thankful and help our global community. Since your powers as Governor do not actually include stopping refugees at the Maryland border, let’s try some compassion instead.”

Barry Rascovar’s blog is www.politicalmaryland.com. He can be reached at brascovar@hotmail.com.

  • scottanderson

    Racovar: I get that you are a formerly well known columnist writing willfully ignorant polemicals in a desperate bid to attract readers, but I’ll take the (click) bait anyway. Gov. Hogan and most of the other Republicans you cited (who are aware they have no legal authority over immigration) have said that we should PAUSE, NOT permanently STOP, immigration of Syrian refugees. This is because of a concern – shared by several dozen democratic congressmen that voted in favor of such a pause – that some of these refugees come here to do us harm. Yes, Obama says that there is already a process in place to address this during the screening process but I have zero faith that the government that can’t set up a web site is capable of any sort of “rigorous” screening without being forced to do so by law. For other examples of government incompetence, see the Veterans Administration, HHS, IRS, Secret Service, etc. And if you are unable to discern a difference between Korean immigrants or Soviet Jews coming to the US during the 80s and Syrian refugees in the age of ISIS, let me spell it out for you – ISIS and other Islamic extremist groups are motivated by a religious conviction to kill us. As for citing Mayor Rawlings-Blake as an advocate for bringing Syrian refugees – who cares? She’s presiding over a city with record high homicide rate so I’m not sure we’d notice much difference if some terrorists moved in.

    • ksteve

      I have zero faith in you Republicans to do anything worthwhile for the general public here. On this particular issue, Hogan etal are just pandering to your hateful base. I definitely have more faith in Obama than I do in your kind..Rather than help people in need, you Republicans in general would rather that we send US troops off to strange lands to do battle and die for your economic interests in wars based on false pretenses, Rather than provide a tax system to pay our bills based on ability to pay, your party in general would rather build up even more debt by providing tax breaks for the rich and the military-industrial complex. Your party contributes to the high homicide rate here by opposing any effective gun regulations, since the latter would get in the way of profits for the industry. Yes, we have to do what we can to contend with terrorism, but we have plenty of our own, often with their own religious agendas. Yet your party would rather talk about Syrian refugees who are attempting to flee from an impossible situation.