ECLECTIC RANT: Uncalled-for "SAFE" Act

Ralph E. Stone
Saturday November 28, 2015 - 04:55:00 PM

On November 20th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4038, the Orwellianly misnamed "American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015" (SAFE ACT) to drastically limit the number of Syrian refugees able to enter the U.S. In addition, 31 state governors do not want Syrian refugees as do the Republican presidential candidates. The U.S. Senate is unlikely to pass it and even if it did, President Obama said he would veto it.  

Obama has directed his administration to accept at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees in the next fiscal year. 

The U.S. already has in place a tough screening process for immigrants. If it did become law, under the SAFE Act, a Syrian or Iraqi alien would face additional hurdles. Under the SAFE Act, a Syrian or Iraqi alien "may not be admitted as a refugee until the FBI certifies to DHS and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) that he or she has received a background investigation sufficient to determine whether the alien is a U.S. security threat; and may only be admitted to the United States after DHS, with the unanimous concurrence of the FBI and the DNI, certifies to Congress that he or she is not such a threat." These hoops are so onerous that few if any refugees would ever be admitted to the U.S. And that's the House's goal. 

The United Nations estimates that 800,000 refugees have journeyed to Europe, coming mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The European Union estimates that another 3 million more will arrive by 2017. Given that the refugee crisis is at least partly caused by our "war against terrorism," the U.S. has a moral obligation to resettle refugees into this country. H.R. 4038 is a shameful response to this crisis. 

According to James Madison, the U.S. House of Representatives was established as the lower house, intended to be "of the people." If the branch of government "of the people" pass anti-refugee legislation and our politicians shout xenophobia, the hate will trickle-down and give "the people" permission to exhibit extreme Islamophobia -- the dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims.  

Consider that according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll, more than three-quarters of Republicans (76 percent) and Tea Party members (77 percent) agree that Islam is at odds with American values and way of life. A majority (57 percent) of political independents also believe that Islam is incompatible with American values and way of life. In contrast, only 43 percent of Democrats say that Islam is at odds with American culture, while 52 percent disagree. 

It is ironic that all this is happening just before Christmas where the spirit of generous giving should be paramount.  

What would Jesus do? 


As an aside, I highly recommend Ayad Akhtar's Disgraced, about a vehemently assimilated Muslim corporate lawyer in Manhattan, now playing at the Berkeley Rep through December 17. The play won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013.