Op-ed: RNC's 'Make America Safe Again' ignores facts on refugees

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - 8:36pm

At the Republican National Convention last week, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized Hillary Clinton for being “in favor of even taking in Syrian refugees,” calling them “operatives who are terrorists … (who intend to) come here and kill us.” The RNC theme of the night, “Make America Safe Again,” also encouraged the notion that Americans cannot be compassionate without being pragmatic, especially regarding hot topic issues like terrorism and the immigration of Syrian refugees.

The truth is, however, that welcoming Syrian refugees poses virtually zero threat to our national security. The current vetting method is already comprehensive, containing a nine-step investigation full of background checks, data collection, investigations by the FBI and State Department, and fingerprinting screened against enormous biometric databases of watch-list information and records captured in Iraq. Syrian cases are also the most strictly monitored, so only the strongest candidates for resettlement (less than one percent of the refugee population) are able to pass even step one of the nine-step process. It would be unreasonable for anyone in the Republican Party to say that our current vetting process makes America unsafe.

Nonetheless, Republicans constantly call the vetting process incomprehensive and have pushed for legislation to tighten security. However, their impossible standards require each refugee to be personally certified by the director of the FBI, the director of National Intelligence and the secretary of Homeland Security, which would halt the refugee flow into the United States almost entirely. Under the guise of being “security-conscious, not racist,” Republicans created a “bureaucratic logjam that effectively (would allow) nobody … into the country.”

Republicans also insist that the greater number of refugees, the greater the chance is that one of them will be a terrorist. Mike Huckabee famously said on MSNBC, “If you bought a five-pound bag of peanuts and there were about 10 peanuts that were deadly poisonous, would you feed them to your kids?”

However, this rationale does not take into account that predictors exist — assuming it is impossible to distinguish good peanuts from bad peanuts. According to Emil Karlsson, the peanut analogy relies on the assumption that all peanuts “look the same whether or not they are poisonous, (and) if there was a way to distinguish the two, it would not matter that a certain proportion are toxic as you could just not pick them.” In reality, the United States has the ability to distinguish between regular refugees and radical Muslims. Not to mention that humans are, well, humans, rather than peanuts.

The real danger of the peanut analogy is that it can be twisted to discriminate against any racial group. If Blacks commit more crimes than other races, the peanut analogy can be used to say we should avoid all Black people entirely. If women are in car crashes more often than men, the peanut analogy says that all women, including female NASCAR racers, should be banned from owning cars. If 94.6 percent of people who commit gang-related homicides are men, which is actually true, the peanut analogy says that all men are dangerous and should be avoided. Presuming guilt before innocence goes against the core values in the U.S. justice system, but it has still been one of the biggest arguments used by Republicans who are anti-refugee.

Finally, Republicans argue that the vetting process is unsafe because terrorist attacks have occurred in the news. However, according to the RAND Corporation, of all the jihadist-inspired terrorist attacks in the United States, 86 percent of them came from U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. Of the others, most came into the country on temporary visas or the Visa Waiver Program. Three attempted to use the Visa Waiver Program, but two were arrested in the airport and sent to prison. As the Visa Waiver Program screens 20 million visitors a year, three failures out of 300 million in a 15-year period is a very high success rate. Finally, none of the terrorists came into the United States through the Syrian refugee vetting process, which is, again, the most comprehensive.

Republicans like Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani are worried that the influx of Syrian refugees makes America unsafe. However, what allows Syrian refugees into the United States is not a lapse of judgment but a comprehensive vetting process. America is safe, and everyone who argues differently has been caught up with either false reasoning or paranoia. In terms of keeping America safe, it already is, and our country will benefit once we all realize that.

Tiffany Chau is a public policy junior.