President Obama zings anti-refugee Republicans

President Obama held a conference call with 34 governors yesterday to remind them that, no, they aren’t allowed to restrict movement of refugees once they have been granted legal status and entered the United States.

Thus far, only one Republican governor — Utah’s Gary Herbert — has said that their state will receive refugees. As Herbert said, “Governors really don’t have the ability to stop refugees from coming into their states, in spite the rhetoric we hear out there.”

So President Obama shouldn’t have had to organize such a call. These governors know the rules, and are saying they’ll ignore them to make their constituents feel like they’re doing something about, you know, those people. But with the overall level of nonsense from Republicans in positions of power getting out of hand, getting them together to go back over the basics became necessary. No, they can’t violate the Refugee Act of 1980. Yes, if the federal government decides that “orphans under the age of 5” don’t pose a national security risk, Chris Christie will have to deal with it. No, religious tests for refugees are not constitutional. And seriously, John Kasich, we are not launching a new federal program for spreading Judeo-Christian values abroad.

It’s been a hot mess. None of these proposals would make America any safer, and most if not all of them are some combination of illegal and unworkable. And the more Republican elected officials mislead their constituents about the reality of processing Syrian refugees, the harder it gets for the federal government to actually go about the business of resettling them.

So I wouldn’t exactly blame President Obama for being more than a bit frustrated, as was evident when he unloaded on Republican officials opposed to Syrian refugees in comments issued to reporters last night.


Under current law, it takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months to clear a refugee to come to the United States. They are subject to the most rigorous process conceivable. The intelligence community vets fully who they are…

…It is so cumbersome that it’s very difficult to show the kind of compassion we need to show these folks suffering under the bombings of Assad and the attacks of ISI. They are victims of this terror. If there are concrete, actual ideas to expand the extraordinary screening process in place, we’re open to hearing actual ideas, but that’s not what’s been going on in this debate.

You can’t have a debate about how to implement or change our current immigration policy that isn’t actually based in our current immigration policy. Those who are calling for the United States to implement a more rigorous screening process for refugees than Europe seem willfully ignorant of the fact that this is already the case. For instance, a bill was just introduced in the House to require all refugees to get clearance from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security before entering the country, which sounds great! So great, in fact, that we’re already doing it.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Republicans worried about Syrian refugees have no workable ideas, the proposals they’ve put forward — which have spanned the wide range of “no Muslim refugees” to “no refugees at all” — are more dangerous in the long run. As President Obama continued.

President Obama speaks in Kenya, screenshot via YouTube

President Obama, screenshot via YouTube

I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric coming out of here in the course of this debate. ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there’s a war between Islam and the West, and when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive. And it needs to stop. And I would add that these are the same folks who suggested they’re so tough that just talk to Putin or staring down ISIL (will work), but they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion.

And then the kicker:

First they were worried the press was too tough on them in the debates; now they’re worried about 3-year old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.


That line touched a nerve with many conservatives, who took issue not with the crux of Obama’s argument — that the GOP’s posturing over Syrian refugees is both baseless and counterproductive — but rather his tone:

But I mean, look who’s talking, right?

If your ideas are ridiculous and hypocritical —  if you refuse to take a deadly-serious issue seriously — then you don’t get to whine about it when the actual adults in the room call you out. President Obama was dismissive? Good. These Republicans who are trading in dictionary-definition Islamophobia deserve to be dismissed.

In any case, we’re about to see a whole bunch of conservatives who have spent the last seven years calling President Obama a Muslim communist with monkey ears get real sensitive about tone.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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