Security served by law enforcement, not refugee ban

The House of Representatives easily passed a bill which would prevent immigrants from Syria or Iraq from entering the United States until the Obama administration can assure Congress that they would not pose a security risk. The Speaker of the House says that was “urgent” to obtain immediate passage of this restriction, saying “We cannot and should not wait to act, not when our national security is at stake."

Yet we should stop and ponder exactly how our national security could be at stake.

The Islamic State is both the expression of a Wahabbist ideology and is a protostate in parts of Iraq and Syria. But it is not, and will not become, an existential threat to the U.S. As an ideology, it will applaud the passage of legislation barring Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as it reinforces members belief in the power of their message and in our concomitant fear of that message. As a protostate, it will applaud the legislation, as it is a recruiting victory as well.

The Islamic State, unlike al-Qaida, has not directed, coordinated nor supported a single attack in the U.S. True, there has been several ISIS-inspired attacks, depending on your definition, but none for which ISIS can do more than claim credit. Much of that is due to the efforts of the FBI in active surveillance and other methods of counter-terrorism, and to information-sharing across the federal government and with the states. Department of Homeland Security sub-agencies, such as Citizenship and Immigration Services, have layers of review in the vetting process of visitors to this country

State and local law enforcement agencies in Michigan have also been addressing counter-terrorism continuously since Sept. 11, 2001. Our Michigan State Police, authored the “Seven Signs of Terrorism,” a national model on situational awareness for our citizens. The MSP holds an annual statewide conference on current Homeland Security issues for local first responders and for public health and school officials.

Michigan law enforcement is not just engaged in counter-terrorism, but in addressing the ideology. Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad has been engaged in countering the forces that create extremism and radicalization in Dearborn. Mayor Jack O’Reilly and Chief Haddad have been at the national forefront of three issues: countering violent extremism, school safety, especially from shootings, and inclusion of all ethnic and most ideological groups in outreach and sensing committees. These efforts reinforce all that is best in the U.S., a willingness to assist, and to accept others, and to assure them the opportunity to strive for the American dream, like generations of immigrants before them.

No one has yet identified the national security risk posed by Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Nor has there been a thoughtful evaluation of the risks, including the positive impact on ISIS’ reputation, for closing our borders to those seeking to flee ISIS, to support this security measure, after the risk is evaluated. We have been in an (often muted) debate on the balance between national security and individual liberties since 2002, resulting in greater, but measured, police powers. Let’s support those federal, state and local agencies rather than impetuously assuming that locking the front door will quell the threat.

Michael C.H. McDaniel, professor

Western Michigan University,

Cooley Law School

retired brigadier general