Sheppard: Governors wise to pause refugees’ entry
Last month, the world watched horror unfold on the streets of Paris and learned what can happen when terrorists are able to plan and act for months without detection. In fact, since then we have learned that the attack’s mastermind was able to repeatedly move across Europe and back and forth from the Middle East, slipping though security systems despite being listed as a known threat.
The lesson is simple — even the most sophisticated systems can fail to detect people bent on destruction, so we must also work hard to prevent problems to begin with.
As part of that prevention effort, 30 U.S. governors, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, asked the federal government to pause the flow of Syrian refugees into their states. This was the right call.
First, we can never be too cautious when facing a sophisticated and determined opponent. As Kasich rightfully explained, putting a pause on Syrian refugees is not a heartless move — it’s an intelligent one. We’ve seen the consequences of unrestricted movement across borders in Europe once people bent on harm clear the first hurdle of getting inside. If it can happen in Europe, it can happen in America. It can happen in Michigan or Ohio. Our leaders need to ensure that our intelligence coordination with our allies is ironclad in order to properly vet refugees, and it’s clear that this coordination is not where it needs to be right now.
Second, our own vetting process is not where it needs to be. As the Washington Post reported in November, both FBI Director James Comey and National Intelligence Director James Clapper have expressed concerns with the gaps in the data we have on Syrian refugees’ backgrounds and could not provide assurances that no security risk exists. In Iraq, our government had people on the ground with the ability to cross-check data with the Iraqi government or other local sources. Even with that extra layer of verification, several terrorists slipped through among the refugees. In 2013, two Iraqi refugees living in the U.S. were handed long sentences for terrorism charges. In Syria, our government doesn’t have the same access to the records and databases needed to verify an applicant’s information. We have no way of knowing if their passports are genuine or if they are who they say they are.
Until these gaps are closed, President Barack Obama’s plan of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. before the end of the year is a risk no leader should take.
Our ultimate goal should be to create the conditions for refugees to return home — or even stay at home to begin with. Out of desperation, refugees seek safe places on the other side of the world, but they — and anyone — would prefer to live in peace and security in their own homes if they could. Kasich has repeatedly called for the creation of refugee sanctuaries within Syria under the protection of no-fly zones. We should also increase assistance to friendly Middle Eastern countries in order to help Syrian refugees remain in the region safely. The refugees want to return home, not move across the world. The best thing that our country can do for them is to wipe ISIS off the map as soon as possible and help bring peace to Syria so that can happen.
When it comes to accepting Syrian refugees, we can’t afford to gamble with the lives of our own neighbors.
State Rep. Jason Sheppard is a Republican from Temperance who last month announced his support for John Kasich in the GOP presidential primary.