Here’s the thing, Roy Cooper: We expected this from Pat McCrory. Have you seen the Republican base he answers to, presently in thrall to nativist fabulist Donald Trumpan outrage factory perpetually in search of its next scapegoat?
And McCrory’s establishment peers have jumped on the bandwagon, too. Last week, House Republicans, along with some quivering Democrats cowed by the brutality of Paris, gave ISIS exactly what it wants: the demonization of an entire population of peopleonly 2 percent of whom, by the way, are fighting-age single maleswho are risking their lives to flee some of the most horrendous conditions on Earth. Combine the vote to essentially block Syrian refugees from entering the country with Trump’s call for widespread mosque surveillance, and you’re feeding the radicals’ narrative that America hates Muslims. Which, of course, begets more radicals. See how that works?
This sort of terrorism-related pants-shitting has been the GOP’s bread and butter since Dubya. But it’s been exacerbated in the Obama era, owing in part to knee-jerk opposition to literally anything the president does (e.g., earlier this week, Public Policy Polling released a survey showing that Republicans objected to Obama pardoning two Thanksgiving turkeys last year instead of one). That’s not to minimize the White House’s very real missteps in the tumult that is the post-Arab Spring Middle East (though such critiques are rich coming from the same guys who invaded Iraq). It is intended, however, to remind us that much of the hysteria that surrounds foreign policymaking is explicitly political, and this is no exception.
So when McCroryalong with more than half of America’s governorsannounced last week that the state would no longer accept Syrian refugees (give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses indeed) because the background checks are somehow insufficient, even though he lacks the authority to do that, we shrugged.
But then, Roy, you came out and endorsed a “pause” in refugee entries to “ensure we have the most effective screening process possible.” Oh sure, you couched with cautionary words about fear mongering, but the underlying point remained: You think people are afraid, you want their vote, and you’re willing to appeal to their basest instincts to get it.
You’re a smart guy. You know better. Even a cursory glance at the hurdles refugees have to jump to gain access to this country should put an end to this nonsense. Before refugees can even be considered for entry into the United States, they have to be cleared by the United Nations.
Next, as the group Human Rights First describes it: “The U.S. government then conducts its own extremely rigorous screening process, including health checks, repeated biometric checks, several layers of biographical and background screening, and in-person interviews by specially-trained officers.” On top of that, the Department of Homeland Security has added an extra layer of screening specifically for Syrian refugees. (If they’re granted access, they’re placed in the country by NGOs and religious aid organizations, not the government.)
As Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told Congress last month, “The reality is that, with improvements to the process we have made over time, refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks.”
This process takes as long as three years. And it works: Of the roughly 2,000 refugees who have entered the country since the start of Syria’s civil war, zero have been arrested for terrorist activities. In fact, of the 785,000 refugees from all over the world who’ve migrated to the U.S. since 9/11, only a dozen have been arrested or deported due to terrorism concerns that existed before they settled here, according to the State Department.
No system is foolproof, Roy, and if you’ve got a better notion of the “most effective screening process possible,” we’d love to hear it. But that’s not what you’re doing. You’re putting politicsstupid, pointless, ineffective politics at thatahead of sound policy and basic human compassion, and you’re doing it rather obviously.
While he declined to discuss your motivations, saying that politicians have the right to “inquire about what the process looks like,” Rep. David Price, D-Chapel Hill, did tell the INDY Monday that this current wave of “fear mongering and suspicion” in Washington is “reprehensible politics. … I think our country can do better than this.”
So do we, Congressman. And so, Roy, we’ll pass the mic to your underdog opponent for the gubernatorial nomination, Durham lawyer Ken Spaulding, who at least diagnoses your move accurately: “It’s the typical approach North Carolina politicians have had, both Republicans and Democrats, on issues that consultants feel are hot-button issues, fear issues. The Republicans are out front, Democrats who are timid will follow along instead of leading. That’s why Democrats have lost.”
Perhaps, given the liberal backlash your pandering has engendered, Roy, you’re beginning to recognize that. On Monday, your office announced that, despite McCrory’s asinine request, you wouldn’t join a transgender-bathroom-freakout lawsuit out of Virginia.
“Adolescence is hard enough without being bullied by an elected official,” your campaign said in a statement.
This is true, Roy. But you know what else is hard and undeserving of political bullying? Being a Syrian refugee.
Reach the INDY‘s Triangulator team at email@example.com.