Syrian refugees: Choice between public safety and compassion

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

It’s been almost a year and a half since the dangerous international terrorist organization, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), declared a global caliphate. Even before that proclamation, ISIL had already committed countless atrocities in multiple nations on several continents. Mass murders, myriad rapes, beheadings and religious persecutions have now become routine in areas that recently were holding elections and were on-track in establishing democratic governance.

Caliphate is a form of Islamic government. It is led by a Caliph whose followers consider him to be the rightful leader of all Muslims due to his direct linage to the Prophet Mohammad. The declaration of caliphate by ISIL includes an historic area encompassing the entire eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

That area includes the present day state of Israel. Therefore, political recognition of the caliphate, by any person or entity, serves to acknowledge that Israel no longer has a right to exist.

Since the declaration of caliphate, the escalation of terrorist atrocities has been even more widespread and devastating. Tens of thousands of Christians and Muslims alike are fleeing to anywhere that is not the caliphate.

ISIL operatives have stated that those refugees have been infiltrated with more than 4,000 caliphate fighters. They further brag that the preponderance of those ISIL fighters are now armed with Christian passports.

One of their first North American attacks occurred in October 2014. A member of the Canadian Forces was shot and killed and three others were wounded at that country’s National War Memorial in Ottawa in a terror-related attack.

An August 2015 attack on a French train in Belgium was apparently designed to murder hundreds. It was aborted by the actions of two Americans on military leave and a civilian. One of them, Alek Skarlatos, is an Oregonian from Roseburg.

In fact, Skarlatos was enrolled as a student at Umpqua Community College and said he was scheduled to be in the same building where a shooting took place earlier this year. He was out of town that day taping an appearance on a reality television show.

The simultaneous, orchestrated attacks in Paris last month took ISIL terrorism to an entire new level. The mass murder of 129 non-combatants makes clear that war has been declared on civilians in western nations and that no target is off limits.

Four days later, a similar effort was apparently made outside a German stadium. The German Prime Minister and other top national officials were scheduled to attend that sports event. They planned to attend to show solidarity against ISIL terrorism.

Obama has since announced his agreement to start accepting up to 10,000 refugees from this war-torn region. His unilateral decision appears to ignore the admission of multiple federal officials stating they can’t positively screen the refugees for security risks before admitting them into this country.

Both Obama and Oregon Governor Kate Brown have demonstrated the audacity to explain that these refugees are “widows and orphans.” Those statements belie the advice of persons within his intelligence agencies stating that they don’t know who many of these people are and that they have no way of finding out who they are.

Obama’s proclivity for underestimating ISIL is not confidence building. This is the same president who declared ISIS the “JV Squad” and who said ISIL was “contained” mere hours before the horrific attacks in Paris.

Over half of the nation’s governors have gone on record stating these refugees are not welcome in their states. They are not taking this action out of a lack of compassion. They are acting out of legitimate concerns for the safety of the people they represent.

Their statements are also, in effect, a vote of “no confidence” in the ability of the federal government to control our borders and to perform its critical duties of preserving public safety under current circumstances. The skepticism of those governors is not unwarranted.

News reports state that terrorists have already used the refugee program to settle in the United States. Others state that we may have allowed “dozens” of them into the country under that guise.  Since the attack in Paris, refugees have been detained in Honduras for traveling with false Greek passports. Others have been arrested in Turkey and even along our southern border.

Even Pope Francis has warned that ISIS could use the refugee crisis to infiltrate Europe. Our neighbors to the north, Canada, are refusing refugees who are single men.

My office has received many phone calls and e-mails from constituents who are concerned about the potential security risk posed by this policy. We have yet to hear from a single person in my Senate district who thinks bringing Syrian refugees to Oregon at this time is a good idea.

The primary obligation of any government is to protect and preserve public safety. Nevertheless, Governor Brown has declared that Oregon will take in these refugees, regardless of the potential danger that it may entail. I believe the adoption of any policy that serves to deliberately ignore significant risk to the public’s safety is deserving of a high level of scrutiny.

In my opinion, the safety of our people is worth the extra amount of time and effort to ensure that we know who is entering our country before tragedy strikes. The policies currently being pursued by our President and our Governor are undoubtedly increasing our vulnerability to the kind of horrific attack that struck Paris and killed scores of innocent civilians.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls