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Issue #1712      November 25, 2015

Shameless anti-refugee bill

WASHINGTON: The Republican Party and the right have descended to a new level of repulsive shamelessness that many thought was not possible even for them. Their spokespersons and presidential candidates have vied with each other for the most outrageous statements designed to generate fear and hatred against the largest group of victims of the Salafist terrorist group ISIS, namely the millions of refugees fleeing from the fighting and repression in Syria, Iraq and other directly affected countries.

They have gone further, trying to link the Paris terrorists to Muslims and immigrants in general. Several have called for the admission only of Christian refugees and no Muslims, a position shared with some of the most backward right wing European leaders, and sharply at variance with the US Constitution.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson compared the refugees to rabid dogs, while Donald Trump, to nobody’s surprise, outdid all the rest by suggesting that Muslims may have to be forced to wear special identification badges, like the armbands the Nazis made the Jews wear in Europe. Thirty one governors, all but one of them Republicans, have indicated that they will not accept the settlement of the refugees in their states.

They have no right under law to do this, but the fear arises that in those states, even if the federal government insists, as President Obama has said it would, in settling the refugees, state and local governments will not cooperate with providing them with basic services. On the other hand, a number of state governors and the Chicago City Council have announced that the refugees are welcome.

Hoping to gain electoral traction for 2016 on the basis of the fear and anger roused by the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, the Republicans shoved through a bill in the House of Representatives, the SAFE (American Security Against Foreign Enemies) Act, HR 4038, which could have the effect of delaying the processing of the paltry number of Syrian refugees (10,000 of the millions that exist) that the federal government has announced it will admit. Iraqi refugees are also covered, as well as people who have recently travelled to those two countries. Refugees are already screened by United Nations Relief Agencies and by the US Department of Homeland Security. The new procedure would require that all be screened by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well, and that each refugee be signed off on by several levels of officialdom. The main problem is that this is likely to slow down the process of offering relief to desperate people.

The legislative procedure was unusual in that Congress held no hearings as to what the bill’s impact might be on actual government operations. The bill passed with 289 votes “for”, 137 “against” and 8 “not voting”. Broken down by party, 242 Republicans voted to pass the measure, and only two voted against it, with two others not voting. Forty seven Democrats voted in favour, while 135 voted “no” and six did not vote.

The matter now goes to the US Senate. Civil liberties supporters are calling for all of us to immediately contact our US senators to ask them to vote “NO” on HR 4038, for the sake of humanity, common sense and the honour of our country. The very user friendly website of the US Congress can help you find contact information for your senators, here: www.congress.gov. Given the urgency of the situation, it is best to make telephone calls, but one can also send e-mails and faxes.

President Obama has said he would veto this legislation, but it does not hurt to also contact the White House to urge him to do so also: www.whitehouse.gov/contact

There is no evidence whatsoever that any refugee admitted to the United States, whether Muslim or other, has ever committed a terroristic act.

People’s World

Next article – Taking Issue – The Berlin Wall – built to keep people out not in

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