Politics

Refugees Skip Nations with Similar Cultures on Route to U.S.

Mass resettlement in Western countries violates international law, long-standing doctrine

A Somali refugee, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, tried to kill 11 people on the Ohio State University campus last week.

No one was fatally injured. But that was luck. Artan rammed his car into a crowd and then slashed at 11 people with a large knife.

“The people we are taking in are very often our enemies.”

Americans learned Artan came to the United States from Somalia, joined by his mother and six siblings. But what did not necessarily permeate was that he and his family were resettled in Pakistan first, circa 2007. The family was in a Muslim nation much better suited to their cultural and religious needs.

And they were safe — safe from the anarchy, poverty and violence of Somalia.

But for some reason, a Christian charity funded by the federal government resettled the family in Dallas in 2014.

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According to the Stream, a Christian news website, his family was settled first in Dallas. Catholic Charities of Dallas sponsored the family, attracting federal dollars to help with the resettlement.

Artan and his family were then resettled in Ohio.

[lz_table title=”U.S. Refugee Admissions” source=”U.S. State Department”]
1975 v. 2015

|Africa
1975, 0
2015, 22472

|Near East-South Asia
1975, 0
2015, 24579

|Asia
1975, 135000
2015, 18469

|Europe
1975, 1947
2015, 2363

|Former USSR
1975, 6211
2015, 0

|Latin America
1975, 3000
2015, 2050

[/lz_table]

Artan’s example shows just how abused and troubled America’s refugee program is. The current refugee program was formed in 1975 as a response to a flood of Asian refugees expected when North Vietnam won its civil war. The policy was supposed to be aimed toward friendly foreigners who were under siege from their own governments — governments the United States usually opposed, such as those of the USSR and Vietnam.

It was fairly easy to vet the refugees from Southeast Asia. The United States left behinds tens of thousands of Vietnamese and Laotian allies.

The 1975 program was designed to take a yearly influx of refugees, especially from Asia. That first year, the United States took in 135,000 Asians. It also took in more than 6,000 people from what is the former USSR.

Today, the United States takes no refugees from Russia and the former USSR. The nation took in just over 18,000 Asian refugees last year, according to the State Department.

But the United States took in 47,000 refugees from Africa and the Near East. The focus has changed.

Every year, in a communication with Congress, the president can alter the numbers, thanks to the Refugee Act of 1980. And Congress has little or no say, which irks Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Since the 1980 law, the refugee program has become abused and even sloppy in its vetting, according to Krikorian. In the case of Somalia, a troubled nation-state, it’s hard to vet people and their records.

It’s more efficient, less costly, and safer for the refugees to be given assistance in their own country or region, Krikorian says. Krikorian said what it costs to resettle one refugee can feed 12 in their home nations. It’s like refusing to feed 12 people but giving one special treatment — and caviar.

“It’s immoral,” Krikorian said. “Refugee resettlement is morally wrong.”

President-Elect Donald Trump has said he prefers helping refugees at their home. Trump said he would focus on setting up “safe zones” in another war-torn country, Syria, to protect refugees from ISIS and the nation’s dictator.

But complicating recent refugee policy are two issues.

One is that refugees are, by international law, supposed to seek safety in the nearest safe country. For Somalia, that could mean Saudi Arabia, Jordan, or many other predominantly Sunni Muslim nations. Many of these nations accept few refugees, though, and expect the United States, Canada and European nations to carry the burden.

The problem is cultural assimilation. It’s not an easy process to get immigrants to grow accustomed to their new home, say experts. And the new era is quite different from when immigrants came to Ellis Island from Ireland and Italy.

Today, the nations that shoulder much of the refugee burden are not culturally or religiously similar to Somalia or Syria. And immigration reform advocates say Sunni Muslim refugees need vetting because that is the population from which al-Qaida and ISIS sprang.

“The people we are taking in are very often our enemies,” said Krikorian.

And terrorist groups are not even denying it.

“[ISIS] has told us that they intend to use the refugee flow to insert operatives” into Western countries, said Ira Mehlman, the media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Another problem with current U.S. refugee policy is that it is abused by the State Department as a tool of diplomacy, Krikorian said.

Just after the election, the United States agreed to accept 2,465 refugees who tried to get into Australia but got stuck on Pacific islands. Australia rejected these refugees and the terms of the deal were made secret by President Obama and Australia.

Krikorian said another State Department program began in 2008, when the United States started accepting refugees from Bhutan. Most had first fled to Nepal. After relocating to the United States, the Bhutanese refugee community saw a surge in suicides, according to a 2014 report in The Wall Street Journal.

“Assimilation is not an easy process,” said Mehlman.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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