Shaw Friedman: Pence's Syrian refugee move a sign of desparation
Thursday, November 19, 2015 10:47 AM
LaPORTE — Many of us who disagreed with Gov. Pence’s disastrous support of RFRA, which cratered his approval ratings and set up a very competitive race for governor, had to acknowledge his stand, while wrongheaded, was likely motivated by some sincere religious conviction.
But his joining the paranoid, political parade this past Monday morning of Republican governors mindlessly insisting on a halt to Syrian refugees seeking asylum in this country, was apparently made without any input or guidance from his department heads or law enforcement and smacks of raw political opportunism. It was a craven act of political desperation of an elected official in a tight race for reelection that insults the intelligence of all Hoosiers.
If the governor was sincerely concerned about the threat posed by these refugees, many of them widows and orphans escaping ISIS oppression, why not calmly and carefully convene his cabinet on Monday including his Superintendent of state police. Check with his director of Homeland Security. Nah. Forget that and breathlessly join up with Republican operatives hoping to score cheap debating points on the Monday morning news shows, rather than make good public policy.
Perhaps had he done his due diligence in a statesmanslike way, rather than behave as just another unprincipled pol, he would have found that the U.S. refugee clearance process is among the tightest anywhere in the world. Refugees are subjected to the highest level of security check of any traveler to the U.S. including the involvement of the National Counter-Terrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Center, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State and Department of Defense.
All refugees, including Syrians, are admitted only after successful completion of a stringent security regime which includes biographic and biometric info vetted against a broad array of law enforcement and intelligence community databases.
The Economist magazine reports that of the 750,000 refugees who have taken up residence in the U.S. since 9/11, none have been arrested on charges of domestic terrorism. None, zero, zilch. As the Migration Policy Institute reported today, “the refugee re-settlement program is the least likely avenue for a terrorist to choose to enter the U.S…as the whole process typically takes 18-24 months with high hurdles for security clearance.”
So far, the U.S. is admitting only the most vulnerable Syrians, particularly survivors of violence and torture, those with severe medical conditions and women and children, in a manner that is consistent with national security.
Governor, you really want to do something about terrorism rather than just “sticking your chest out wanting to take a little piece of a national issue” as House Leader Pelath criticized him so aptly?
Why not talk about asking tech companies in our state to join with tech companies elsewhere to help crack these new encrypted apps that apparently permitted the terrorists to communicate with each other and go undetected by the intelligence services. Let’s see governors of the 50 states come together and summon the intellectual might of the tech industry and put it in service of our country.
The fact that apps designed by Silicon Valley are now being used by ISIS to communicate with their foreign operatives ought to scare the daylights out of anyone hoping that our intelligence services can once again break up an attack by one of these jihadist organizations in the future. Let Mike Pence do something constructive on that front rather than mindlessly inveigh against Syrian refugees.
I know Mike Pence continues to disappoint on so many levels, but one had to hope he would listen to the calm voices of Republicans like Sen. John McCain, former GOP nationally chairman Haley Barbour and others before signing onto a politically inspired petition just hours after the tragic events in Paris. Mike Pence showed on the expansion of Medicaid and the institution of HIP 2.0 that he could rise above raw, partisan politics but so many times after that, he’s allowed himself to be pulled by hard-nosed partisan operatives into doing the wrong thing for Indiana.
Shaw Friedman is former legal counsel for the Indiana Democratic Party and a longtime HPI columnist.