Com­ing to Amer­ica

Who de­cides whom we wel­come, and how many im­mi­grants we can take in?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

and in­te­grated into a mod­ern wel­fare state, one that con­tin­ues to add costly en­ti­tle­ments. Hu­man­i­tar­ian con­cerns need to be taken into ac­count, too, be­cause most Amer­i­cans are hu­man­i­tar­i­ans.

What seems ob­vi­ous to me is who de­serves to be at the front of the line: those who have sided with Amer­ica and worked for Amer­ica and whose lives are now im­per­iled as a re­sult. There is a spe­cial visa pro­gram for for­eign in­ter­preters who served with the U.S. mil­i­tary, the State Depart­ment and other gov­ern­ment agen­cies in such war zones as Afghanistan and Iraq. It ex­pires on Oct. 1.

It should have been ex­tended ear­lier this year but wasn’t, re­port­edly for rea­sons of pol­i­tics as much as pol­icy. Ac­cord­ing to The Wall Street Jour­nal, Repub­li­cans in Congress are mostly to blame, but Pres­i­dent Obama and other ex­ec­u­tive branch lead­ers have made lit­tle ef­fort to ar­gue for the ex­ten­sion.

That ar­gu­ment is moral, strate­gic and sim­ple: If we turn our backs on those who have risked their lives — and those of their fam­i­lies — to be­friend and as­sist us, why would any­one be­friend and as­sist us in the fu­ture?

And let me take a mo­ment to stress how shame­ful it is that Shakil Afridi, the Pak­istani doc­tor who helped the CIA con­firm Osama bin Laden’s where­abouts, is still rot­ting in a Pak­istani prison. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion claims it prac­tices “smart diplo­macy.” How much diplo­matic I.Q. is re­quired to com­mu­ni­cate that so long as Dr. Afridi is in­car­cer­ated, we will con­clude that Pak­istan is not a re­li­able ally in the fight against al Qaeda — a con­clu­sion that must carry se­ri­ous con­se­quences?

Also a pri­or­ity: refugees flee­ing geno­cide. De­spite wars, con­quests and rule by despots over mil­len­nia, mi­nor­ity re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties have man­aged to sur­vive in the Mid­dle East. In this gen­er­a­tion, how­ever, they may be ex­ter­mi­nated for­ever from many Mus­lim­ma­jor­ity coun­tries.

Both houses of Congress have rec­og­nized that geno­cide is tak­ing place in Syria and Iraq, and Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, speak­ing for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, de­clared in March that “Yazidis, Chris­tians, and Shia Mus­lims” are among the mi­nori­ties now be­ing tar­geted. He added that what the Is­lamic State “wants to erase, we must pre­serve.” (Still wait­ing to hear how you pro­pose to do that, Mr. Sec­re­tary.)

Chris­tians are the largest non-Mus­lim group in Syria, yet of the Syr­ian refugees ac­cepted into the United States to date, only “56 are Chris­tian,” the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions’ El­liott Abrams wrote on his blog ear­lier this month. “Not 56 per­cent; 56 to­tal, out of 10,801. That is to say, one half of one per­cent.”

Chris­tians re­port­edly avoid the U.N. refugee camps in Jor­dan be­cause of the threats posed by Is­lamic State in­fil­tra­tors and crim­i­nal gangs. Sunni refugees also can be hos­tile.

Nina Shea of the Hud­son In­sti­tute’s Cen­ter for Re­li­gious Free­dom has been fol­low­ing these is­sues longer and more in­ten­sively than any­one else I know. She terms what’s go­ing on “de facto dis­crim­i­na­tion and a gross in­jus­tice.” Syr­ian Chris­tians, she told me, have been “aban­doned by the West and be­trayed by the U.N.”

It’s also a fact that the Is­lamic State and al Qaeda are not equal op­por­tu­nity em­ploy­ers. That means there will be no ji­hadi ter­ror­ists among Chris­tian or other non-Mus­lim refugees. How dif­fi­cult is it to con­firm that refugees who claim to be Chris­tians are telling the truth? “Go­ing through bish­ops, an in­di­vid­ual’s lo­cal parish priest is easy to iden­tify,” Ms. Shea told me. “That and bap­tismal records, knowl­edge of Ara­maic, etc., make it eas­ier to iden­tify Chris­tians.”

The ma­jor­ity of Sunni Mus­lims who re­ject the Is­lamic State’s the­ol­ogy-ide­ol­ogy also are suf­fer­ing and vul­ner­a­ble. I un­der­stand why so many would like to come to Amer­ica or Europe. (I don’t un­der­stand why most of the 22 mem­bers of the Arab League and 56 mem­ber states of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion are do­ing so lit­tle for them.)

But the rem­edy for the patholo­gies af­flict­ing the Mid­dle East can­not be to ex­port all the good peo­ple to the West, leav­ing those lands to the bar­bar­ians in the hope that they will even­tu­ally burn them­selves out — with min­i­mal harm to us in the mean­time.

Some mem­bers of Congress do not want to re­main by­standers to geno­cide. Sen. Tom Cot­ton, Arkansas Repub­li­can, has in­tro­duced the Re­li­gious Per­se­cu­tion Re­lief Act, which would grant Syr­ian re­li­gious mi­nori­ties flee­ing per­se­cu­tion pri­or­ity sta­tus and al­low them to cir­cum­vent the U.N.

Reps, Chris Smith, New Jer­sey Repub­li­can, and Anna Eshoo, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, have in­tro­duced the Iraq and Syria Geno­cide Re­lief and Ac­count­abil­ity Act, which would pro­vide “re­lief for vic­tims of geno­cide, crimes against hu­man­ity and war crimes in Iraq and Syria.” For ei­ther bill to pass this year will re­quire some heavy lift­ing.

Not long ago, we seemed to un­der­stand why geno­cide was uniquely evil. We vowed, “Never again.” Now many peo­ple are say­ing “Never mind.” They ei­ther can’t be both­ered or, hav­ing em­braced moral equiv­a­lence, equate pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of geno­cide vic­tims with dis­crim­i­na­tion against other groups. That is con­fused think­ing. But we live in con­fus­ing times. Clif­ford D. May is pres­i­dent of the Foun­da­tion for De­fense of Democ­ra­cies and a colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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