Steve Knight: Taking in refugees is dangerous

Signal SCV  | November 18, 2015 –

Last month, the White House announced that it plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees onto American soil over the next two years.

When I heard this announcement I was immediately appalled — surely the president did not believe we could properly vet and relocate that many people in such a short amount of time, especially people coming from a country so notorious for terrorist activity.

But last week the administration dug in its heels and insisted on moving forward with the relocation of thousands of Syrians, despite the obvious risks associated with it.

As the national debate ensues over whether this plan can move forward, I need to make one thing perfectly clear: Accepting Syrian refugees is not in the best interest of the American people.

This is not a political question; it is an existential one. The risks of this plan are too great, and the benefits are far from apparent.

The U.S. has a long-standing policy of taking in refugees from countries experiencing turmoil and tragedy, but it has always been on a case-by-case basis. In this particular situation, we must act with the highest level of caution possible.

Syria has traditionally been a hotbed of terrorist activity, and over the course of its civil war this has only increased.

It is well known that various terrorist groups like Hezbollah and al Qaida affiliates are active there, and in the case of the Islamic State, or ISIL, it controls vast swaths of territory.

Further, it is understood that these groups intend to take advantage of migration out of the country by placing radicals into larger groups of refugees so they may infiltrate other nations under the guise of innocent emigrants.

The Department of Homeland Security claims to have procedures in place to vet refugees, and I am co-sponsor of a bill, H.R. 3999, that would strengthen these measures even further.

However, my fear is that ultimately there is no amount of vetting that could possibly guarantee Syrian immigrants pose no substantial security threat.

In a hearing last month, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson admitted that his agency’s background checks have their limitations, and that if a refugee has no existing record there is no way to tell if he or she would commit an act of violence once in our country.

In other words, there is always a substantial risk in accepting a refugee.

In the case of Syria, which has become a terrorist magnet over the past few years, the risk is simply too high to accept.

Not only is the president’s refugee plan dangerous for Americans, but it also is impractical. For it to work, we would have to put thousands of Syrians on planes or boats and move them almost 7,000 miles.

Then we would have to find them housing, jobs, schooling, and other forms of support. The price tag is largely unknown, but there is little doubt that it would be enormous.

Additionally, an expedited naturalization process would be unfair to the many people who are going through the immigration process right now.

The situation in Syria is a tragic one, and unfortunately there is no clear end in sight. Many innocent people are being put in danger by a brutal conflict between the Assad regime, Islamic extremists, rebel groups, and their various backers and allies.

The United States should look for ways to help these displaced people where it can, but ultimately this crisis will need to be resolved by neighboring countries in the Middle East.

The Gulf States, who are active in the Syrian Civil War, would be much better suited to house these refugees than America is, yet they have refused to step in and accept more than a handful of them.

The president and supporters of his plan claim that accepting 10,000 refugees into the United States is the only morally acceptable course of action available to us.

I would argue that this is far from the truth and that we ought to look for ways to help the Syrian people without moving them halfway across the world and onto our soil.

The fact of the matter is that this plan could put the American people in serious danger, and the administration must reconsider its current course of action before it is too late.

Steve Knight is a Republican congressman representing California’s 25th District, which takes in the Santa Clarita, Antelope and Simi valleys.

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