President Obama wants to protect the United States from ISIS by taking measures that could — yes — allow more ISIS operatives into the United States.
In his weekly address Saturday, Obama suggested his policy of settling Syrian refugees in the United States could combat ISIS by giving the U.S. propaganda points for showing how much it cares. But his plan ignores that accepting Syrian refugees risks bringing into the country bad guys posing as needy migrants.
“As we move forward in this fight, we have to wield another weapon alongside our airstrikes, our military, our counterterrorism work, and our diplomacy,” Obama said. “And that’s the power of our example. Our openness to refugees fleeing ISIL’s violence.”
Obama plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees during the current fiscal year, which ends October 1 — and even more during fiscal year 2017.
Meantime, Europe, which has welcomed Syrian refugees with far more open arms — perhaps 1 million have entered in the last five years — is finding its empathy reciprocated with bombings and terrorism committed and planned in part by ISIS members who slipped into the European Union along with legitimate Syrian refugees.
GOP front-runner Donald Trump called Obama’s suggestion “insane,” telling Fox News, “I can’t even believe that he’s saying it. It’s inconceivable that he’s saying it.”
In the wake of last week’s attacks in Brussels, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz renewed his call to bar refugees from Syria.
The White House has previously justified admitting Syrians on humanitarian grounds. Now, Obama is suggesting that bringing people into the country from a terrorist breeding ground somehow benefits national security because people will start to like us.
Critics of the program complain the vetting process for Syrians is inadequate, and that it is impossible to obtain reliable records from the war-torn country.
“What the president is telling us is not true. We can’t vet the refugees … There is no vetting as a practical matter,” warned Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., in September after Obama announced his plan to admit 10,000 Syrians. “Unless we know who they are, we cannot allow them in. My job is to protect Americans, not to feel good about myself,” added King, former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and still a senior member of the panel.
It is unclear why Syrian refugees need to make their way to the United States, given the risks, and could not instead be housed in other Middle Eastern countries.
In his address, Obama also appeared to rebuff efforts to focus security programs on Muslims, such as suggestions by both Cruz and Trump that some mosques should be put under surveillance.
Obama indicated trying to protect the homeland by targeting the populations from which terrorists are most likely to emerge as anti-American.
“We have to reject any attempt to stigmatize Muslim-Americans, and their enormous contributions to our country and our way of life,” Obama said. “Such attempts are contrary to our character, to our values, and to our history as a nation built around the idea of religious freedom.”
A version of this piece also appears on LifeZette.