By Doug Porter
Congressman Scott Peters joined with Republicans yesterday to vote yes on hastily drafted legislation creating a micromanaged immigration process essentially barring refugees from Syria and Iraq, including those who served alongside U.S. troops. The bill is H.R. 4038, the so-called “American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act.
If there’s a bright side to this dark moment in American history, it’s that this vote was largely symbolic. Despite the lopsided number of ayes in the House, this act of political cowardice isn’t likely to make it through the Senate with enough votes to overcome the President’s veto.
Locally GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter and Darrell Issa also voted for the measure, while Democratic Reps. Susan Davis and Juan Vargas voted against the bill.
The rationale for Democrats who supported this legislation was two-fold; it was moderate in that it didn’t include a religious test for entering the US demanded by right-wing extremists and a fear (that’s the operative word here) they’d be branded as soft on terrorism in the 2016 elections.
Analysts with the National Security Agency no doubt heard the celebrations in terror camps throughout the middle east as once again US politicians validated the ideological basis for jihad. And strategists with the Republican party had to be pleased as their 2016 fear of the “other” plan for negating voter concerns about the economy triumphed.
A Shortage of Facts
Congressman Scott Peters decision to cast his lot with the GOP demonstrated his dedication to incumbency and his utter lack of moral fiber. The basis of the threat he voted for is entirely made up.
From the Cincinnati Enquirer:
The selective nature of the proposed moratorium – targeting refugees from only one country – is also troubling because there’s no confirmed, direct link between Syrian refugees and the Paris attacks. All the suspects identified so far hailed from France or Belgium. The call to block Syrian refugees is being made despite the evidence, not because of it. […]
Our refugee resettlement program – yes, even for Syrians – represents a core American value, one that reflects and continues our identity as a melting pot. We are a country founded and fueled by immigrants. We are a nation powered by the proposition that we value oppressed people – of all colors and creeds – who seek shelter.
The House leadership can do no more than cite opinion polls reflective of the hateful language being used by (most of) their presidential candidates as the basis for this bill. Actual facts supporting their case (as opposed to made up ones) are in short supply.
From Steve Benn at MSNBC:
Press a Republican politician on his or her opposition to Syrian refugees, and they’ll eventually point to the vetting process that’s currently in place. Most GOP lawmakers, governors, and candidates have no interest in endorsing explicit bigotry, instead saying they have concerns about the rigor of the screening process refugees must go through. Some on the right like to pretend the process doesn’t even exist.
The trouble comes when pressed for policy details or any kind of substantive analysis. The New York Times reported today:
When pressed, most Republicans could not specify which aspects of the rigorous refugee vetting program that they found inadequate. [House Speaker Paul Ryan’s] staff members cited a Bloomberg poll of 1,002 adults released on Wednesday, conducted by Selzer & Company, that found that 53 percent of those surveyed said the resettlement program should be halted.
A Rhetorical Test, Failed by Scott Peters
Congressman Scott Peters issued a press release putting him firmly on both sides of this issue.
Here’s some double-talk for ya:
President Obama has explained how the United States’ process for screening refugees is the most thorough and advanced in the world. Our process incorporates biometric checks, medical screenings, and stringent investigations with international intelligence agencies to ensure that every individual we allow to enter is not a threat to national security. However, the Administration has not made the case to me that today’s bill will shut down or unduly delay our existing process. It is not too burdensome for federal agencies to certify that admitted refugees will not endanger our communities. To the contrary, the Administration should embrace this opportunity to stand behind its process. This bill does not close our borders, halt our acceptance of refugees fleeing violence and oppression, impose a religious test or otherwise undermine the values and freedoms that make our country so great.
Hey Scott Peters, the vote was symbolic! You just voted with the bigots. And you voted against the President’s clearly articulated stand on this issue.
From the wire service story in the Union Tribune:
Traveling in Asia this week, Obama criticized Congress and Republicans for yielding to “hysteria” and taking aim at “widows and orphans.” The White House threatened a presidential veto, contending the legislation would bring to an end an already highly regulated refugee program while doing nothing to enhance national security. And some Democrats complained that the measure would mar America’s image as a welcoming haven for immigrants.
“We might as well take down the Statue of Liberty,” Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York asserted in debate on the House floor.
One prominent Democratic activist emailed me this morning, saying “The next time somebody tells me that refusing to support Scott Peters means a Republican might win that seat, I’m going to say, ‘We already have a Republican in that seat.’”
A Moral Test, Failed by Scott Peters
Faith leaders, including Catholic Bishops, the Anti-Defamation League and even Christan evangelicals normally supportive of GOP policies have spoken up against the wave of anti-refugee zeal triggered by the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Locally, the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC) assembled the media to witness as representatives of the group returned a proclamation issued by Rep. Peters last week to honor the SDIRC for its work in support of immigrant communities.
Here’s the statement they issued explaining the return:
“San Diego has a proud tradition of welcoming refugee families with open arms, which strengthens the fabric of our region and upholds our values of providing refuge for those in need. Rep. Peters ominous vote runs contrary to our most basic values of compassion and solidarity. Mr. Peters should follow the example of France, our nation’s oldest ally. Only five days after the terrorist attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande has stated that France will honor its commitment to admit 30,000 refugees from war-torn Syria.
Instead Congressman Peters voted to keep Syrian and Iraqi families in harm’s way by adding an unnecessary and cumbersome layer of bureaucracy to the screening process. Mr. Peters’ vote will jeopardize the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children who are in urgent need to escape a country rife with instability and susceptible to devastating acts of violence.
In response to this regrettable vote, we return the recognition his office granted to the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium over the weekend, since his actions foment harm and misunderstanding of immigrant and refugee communities. Whether because of political posturing or because Mr. Peters indeed believes this course of action to be in line with his moral standard, it is intolerable for him or any our elected officials to take such an offensive stance against people seeking refuge. We urge Congressman Peters to rescind his vote and stand on the right side of history.”
A Political Test, Failed by Scott Peters
E.J. Dionne articulated the politics of this issue as it relates to the 2016 elections:
The battle over what matters most could determine the outcome of the 2016 election.
One set of concerns, related to race, immigration and attitudes toward Islam, divides the country deeply. Another group of issues, involving economic inequities and the difficulties many Americans are having getting ahead, has broad reach across party lines.
Republicans want the first agenda to be paramount. This reflects both the attitudes of their supporters and a rational (if debatable) assessment of how they might win. It also explains the eagerness of Republican politicians to make blocking Syrian refugees from our shores the centerpiece of their initial response to the terrorist attacks in Paris.
Casting Democrats as insufficiently mindful of the nation’s security – and charging them with being too responsive to the rights of religious and racial minorities – are among the oldest calls in the GOP political playbook.
To those who would doubt the truly dark and evil nature of this legislative maneuver, I present Ryan Cooper, writing in The Week:
Refugees are a very low risk for terrorism. It is excruciatingly difficult to get refugee status — especially since the process has recently become so Byzantine and paranoid that it’s next to impossible for anyone to actually make it through the application. But here’s the bottom line: Since 9/11, the U.S. has accepted some 784,000 refugees. None have committed any acts of terrorism in the U.S. — and only three have ever been arrested for terror-related crimes, two for sending money to al Qaeda in Iraq and one whose plot was totally preposterous. Similarly, all the Paris attackers firmly identified so far have been EU nationals, not Syrian refugees.
Does that mean it’s totally impossible for some ISIS killer to sneak in with the refugees? Of course not. But tourist, student, and business visas are far easier to get than refugee status, if you’ve got the cash. That’s how every single one of the 9/11 hijackers got into the country. If we were really concerned about ISIS infiltration, that would be the first route to worry about. (Even more important would be sorting out the outrageous disaster zone that is the American security apparatus, but that’s another story.)
The fact that conservatives who are explosively soiling themselves in panic immediately jumped to bar the door to refugees, while barely even mentioning the fact that half of Europe has a visa waiver agreement with the U.S., is stark evidence that it’s anti-Islamic bigotry, not sensible security precautions, driving this attitude. Many conservatives are basically open about this.
Progressive Calendar: Upcoming in San Diego
San Diego Transgender March of Resilience
Friday, November 20, 6pm
San Diego LGBT Community Center
3909 Centre St, San Diego
Updates & Info
This march is to bring visibility to the TDOR and the fact that#BlackLivesMatters and #TransLivesMatters have merged Social Justice Advocating forces to bring about Changes that Needs to Happen Quickly in our Communities.
Peace Resource Center 35th Anniversary SOUPER SUPPER
Saturday, November 21st, 4:30pm (Sliding scale admission)
3850 Westgate Pl, San Diego
Updates & Info
35 years and still rolling… next stop, the future!
ALL ABOARD the PRC Peace Train!
Appropriate “travel attire” includes your favorite peace t-shirt, buttons, and other wearable peace paraphenalia.
#BlackLivesMatter NOT #BlackFriday
Friday, November 27th, Noon
Hall of Justice, 330 W. Broadway
Updates & Info
IF BLACK LIVES and your life matters More than #BlackFriday Cheap deals?
Press Conference @ 12pm, Followed by a march.
On This Day: 1910 – Francisco I. Madero led a revolution that broke out in Mexico. 1969 – The Nixon administration announced a halt to residential use of the pesticide DDT as part of a total phase out of the substance. 2008 – The Great Recession hit high gear as the stock market fell to its lowest level since 1997. Adding to the mess: a burst housing bubble and total incompetence and greed—some of it criminal—on the part of the nation’s largest banks and Wall Street investment firms.
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