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“Fear-Mongering of the Worst Order” from GOP and Some Democrats

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Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail are using the terrorist attack on Paris to attempt to enact new immigration and refugee restrictions in the United States.  Donald Trump and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), two of the men most responsible for the Republican Party’s anti-immigration platform, are leading the charge as much of the GOP—and some Democrats—follow.

The Washington Times reports on a new Trump video out today, in which the candidate attacks President Barack Obama over his Administration’s plans to continue resettling qualified Syrian refugees in the United States.  In the video Trump says “Refugees are pouring into our great country from Syria. We don’t even know who they are. They could be [Islamic State]. They could be anybody. What’s our president doing? Is he insane?”  Last month, Trump said that if he is elected president, he would deport Syrians who had already been resettled in the U.S.

Congressman Steve King also has seized upon the attack in Paris, stating that “Europe is so far into decline that if [he] were a pessimist, he would say it’s over for them,” and “It’s time for us to take stock of our culture and civilization and save it from the people who worship at the altar of multiculturalism.”  Not too subtle an apocalyptic prediction, that one, and well in line with his worldview all along.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) used the attacks to hit a 2016 rival, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), and sent out a campaign email message stating that: “The biggest national security risk facing our country today is being perpetrated by both Republicans and Democrats in Washington who have been cutting deals to make our borders less secure and allow the bad guys access to our country.”  And Ohio Governor John Kasich added his state to the “unwelcome” list for resettled Syrian refugees.

“This is fear-mongering of the worst order,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.  “America is at its best when it leads from hope and determination, not fear and retreat. This entire campaign season, the GOP led by the likes of Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), have chosen to shamelessly interject fear, hate and paranoia into the debate about immigration in America.  They have abandoned the foundations of our American values and our welcoming society in pursuit of narrow political gain.  Now, in response to the tragedy in Paris, these same demagogues—along with a few Democrats—are exploiting our nation’s fear of terrorism to try to achieve a lockdown they couldn’t obtain otherwise.  Of course they do so without regard to the facts about the strict vetting process in place for all refugees settled in America.  But facts have never been an obstacle for these avaricious politicians when it comes to immigration, so it is no surprise they are applying the same standard when it comes to vulnerable refugees.”

Unfortunately, both House and Senate leadership are scrambling to enact the King-Trump agenda (ideally before Senator David Vitter (R-LA) faces voters again this weekend in Louisiana).  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants to hit the “pause” button on the U.S. refugee program and is advancing legislation to do just that.

Some Democrats (like New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan) are also shrinking from leadership on this issue.  Said Tramonte: “History will not look kindly upon people who reject refugees out of uninformed fearsabout the screening process.  We need both Republicans and Democrats to stand up for our values, not retreat in fear.”

In an impassioned floor speech today, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) called out the “opportunism” on display by some political candidates and urged leaders to stay true to American values.  He also reminded his audience: “When we sent Jews back to Germany and when we sent Japanese to internment camps, we regretted it and we will regret this as well.”

As Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post: “This growing cry to turn away people fleeing for their lives brings to mind the SS St. Louis, the ship of Jewish refugees turned away from Florida in 1939. It’s perhaps the ugliest moment in a primary fight that has been sullied by bigotry from the start. It’s no exaggeration to call this un-American.  Or un-Christian.”

Additionally, a group of refugee resettlement leaders Responded to the latest calls to stop the admission of Syrian refugees, and explained by the U.S. can and should be a leader in refugee protection and resettlement.

As Linda Hartke, President of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said: “To close the door on Syrian refugees would be nothing less than signing a death warrant for tens of thousands of families who are fleeing for their lives. If ISIS had hoped the result of the Paris attacks would be small-minded panic, some Governors are giving them their wish.  We should not limit the resettlement of refugees to any one group or faith but rather, we should continue our national priority of resettling the most vulnerable refugees.  Their vulnerability is why we provide refugee, safety, and a new start in the United States.” (Listen to a recording of the call HERE).

Tramonte concluded: “This is a sad time in the tale of our great nation, yet another time when candidates are playing politics with people’s lives at the expense of basic humanity.  Fortunately, there is a growing chorus of leaders willing to call out politicians seeking to exploit this tragedy.  The question is, how successful will Republicans be at politicizing refugee resettlement and shutting our nation’s doors to the persecuted?  How many Democrats will stand up to their demagoguery?  And how long will it take for us to return to our real American values?”