Echoing an admonishment from President Obama’s November 2015 press conference on Syrian refugees, America’s Left responded to President Trump’s postponement of our Mid East refugee program with shouts of “Unamerican!” These were, of course, accompanied by various URLs linking to the story of the MS St. Louis, an ocean liner bearing Jewish refugees from Germany that was turned away by the United States (and Canada, and Cuba) in what would later be called the “Voyage of the Damned.” Without unpacking the astronomically large reservoir of gall required for the ideology of postmodern Europhilic internationalism to brand their opposition as lacking in intrinsically American values, it might be a good idea to finally nail down a usable definition of “refugee,” given that its current catch-all usage applies equally to both unemployed economic migrants and the targets of state-sponsored genocide.
First, however, it’s useful to look at what President Trump actually ordered, as opposed to the increasingly hyperbolic claims made by the Left. The President’s orders block the movement of people from terror-prone countries (specifically Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen) to America for 90 days, suspends the US Refugee Program for 120 days pending review by the Trump administration, caps all refugee admittances at 50,000 for 2017 (as opposed to the current number of 110,000), requires Visa re-applicants to undergo in-person interviews, and allows the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize the resettlement of refugees "on the basis of religious based persecution." (Important to note is that the orders lack any mention of a “Muslim ban.”) The Columbia Bugle wrote specifically in favor of this last clause in 2015, which makes room for terrorized religious minority groups, and makes reality our suggestion of a “Genocide Test.” So kudos, Mr. President. Now he only needs to add Saudi Arabia and Egypt to the list.
So, what makes a refugee a refugee? The Department of Homeland Security defines a refugee as someone who is located outside of the United States, is of special humanitarian concern to the United States, demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, is not firmly resettled in another country, and is admissible to the United States, all while barring “anyone who ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” The obvious problem with these criteria is that they allow almost any unfortunate foreigner to argue that they are a refugee deeply in need of government-sponsored housing. There are 7.4 billion people outside of the United States, which becomes our starting number of potential refugees. Special humanitarian concern is determined by the president and is subjective, but one category might be people living below the global poverty line of $1.90 a day, which is 700 million people as of 2015. The broadest form of persecution is that of social groups by their governments, which can be construed to include poor people made poorer by the policies of their authoritarian or oligarchic regimes, at least hundreds of millions worldwide. Clearly this loose application of “refugee” loses the original meaning of the term, and relegates the United States to the role of global homeless shelter.
If the Left is to be taken seriously in their desire to avoid a repeat performance of our pre-Holocaust refugee practices, it stands to reason that we should not define down that humanitarian catastrophe and, thus, lose it in the great fabric of human needs. The Holocaust was a state-sponsored and state-facilitated extermination effort of several specific groups and target based on race, religion, and heritage. In their genocidal pursuits, the Nazi regime killed approximately 6 million Jews, 2 million Poles, and 1 million people of other groups. This regime industrialized mass killings and carried them out in their national and occupied territories, and targeted minority populations that did not possess nation-states of their own or natural refuges where they lived in a majority. By the above criteria, those victims of the Holocaust relied on the sanctuary offered by foreign powers, lest they die, and the Free World’s failure to receive Holocaust refugees haunts us to this day. Counter the Holocaust to the Left’s most recent cause célèbre, refugees from the Syrian Civil War.
The five-way conflict that is the Syrian Civil War has produced approximately 6.2 million refugees (by UN calculation, as of March 2016) which have fled their country to avoid the conflict. Predominately Muslim in a predominately Muslim region of the world, the vast majority are fleeing the general terrors of civil war, and are not under the direct threat of extermination. Furthermore, sheltering in friendly, adjoining nations is proceeding, with 2.7 million living in Turkey, 1.5 million in Lebanon, between 600,000 and 1.2 million in Jordan, 230,000 in Iraq, and 120,000 in Egypt. International monetary aid to sheltering countries has not been tightfisted, with the United States contributing $4.66b to assist, 2.5x the amount given by the European Union, and total global contributions reached over $17b by December 2015, according to UN estimates. In the whole of the Civil War, the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that 312,000-437,000 people have been killed since the conflict’s start, approximately 2.5% of the total July 2016 estimated population. As a point of comparison, the United States lost 3.2% of its pre-war population in our Civil War.
The Syrian Refugee Crisis is not comparable to the Holocaust. It is not secret, state-executed, or genocidal towards the majority ethnicity of the refugees in its course. Neither is the international community passive, complicit, nor encouraging in regards to the causalities of the war, as Syrian refugees already enjoy massive resettlement programs, funded by the international community, in adjacent and friendly countries. In fact, the international community is very much engaged in combating the various factions of the Civil War, with the express interest of bringing the war to an end. And given that, unlike the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust, Syrian refugees could include adherents to unliberal ideologies or participants in local persecution against religious minorities (an excluding factor even in the current refugee program), taking refugees seems counter to America’s national interests. This author is hard pressed to find any improvement that could made to the situation as a whole by the settlement of 50,000 Syrians half a world away, in a foreign land and culture, to assuage the consciences of the American Left.
And that brings us full-circle to the basis of the Left’s moral outrage at President Trump’s prudent orders: the fear of missing out. The American Left is so disturbed by the possibility that our nation’s greatest civil rights battles and humanitarian tests are behind us that they are prepared to invent new ones. Their grandiose self-image is astounding, given their lack of concrete achievements, and the resulting mass demonstrations ultimately obscure the true philosophical void in their ideology which obligates an endless stream of self-affirmation and virtue signaling. A President suspending a federal, taxpayer-funded benefit to foreign persons is neither unconstitutional nor a step down the road to fascism. Instead, it is a step towards regaining national sovereignty and putting direction onto the shoulders of our decapitated immigration system.
The Columbia Bugle stands with President Trump in his decision to halt refugee resettlement pending review and his prioritizing of religious minorities in the region, the true targets of extermination, for placement within the United States.