Gov. Steve Bullock says he will look favorably on Middle Eastern refugees settling in Montana unless there are concerns about them posing a threat to our safety.
Other governors have also made their opinions known regarding Middle Eastern refugees in their states. The reality, though, is that state governors have little actual authority in terms of foreign refugees.
We are one nation in terms of foreign policy, which includes immigration. That is why states don’t have ports of entry. They don’t conduct comprehensive background searches to adequately “vet” foreign immigrants because people are only residents of states. They have legal status only in the United States.
If refugees attempting to enter our country appear to pose a threat, and are discovered, they are kept out at the national level. Requirements of entry are set forth in federal law. According to President Barack Obama, the vetting process for refugees and immigrants seeking to enter the United States is adequate, and legislation to make it more restrictive, which recently passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan majority is something he intends to veto.
The president’s position is that the legislation “contradicts our fundamental values.” Our laws pertaining to legal entry have been changed many times, and reflect no particular tradition in our history. Even if they did, these are not traditional times, whereas concern for our national security has always been fundamental to who we are.
The president’s defenders argue that the great majority of asylum seekers to the United States from Syria and Iraq are nonthreatening elders and little children. Perhaps so, but in the long term that is of little relevance to our national security. In the 1960s, in order to reduce a severe labor shortage, the nation of Belgium recruited large numbers of workers and their families from Northern Africa. Two generations later those immigrants, now greatly multiplied, continue to live apart from the rest of the Belgian population, and their community is the acknowledged breeding ground for terror in Europe.
The minimum 10,000 well vetted innocents the president proposes to allow into our country will not assimilate into our population as past generations of immigrants were proud to do. As in Belgium, France, and other countries including ours, they will congregate in their own communities. Radicalized by modern communications systems and reinforced by each other, homicidal zealots will incubate in these self-imposed ghettos. The United States will surly face what Europe faces now. We have already experienced a telltale example in the case of the Boston bombers, immigrant kids legally here who were converted to killers.
President Obama has resisted being a war president, but that is what he has become. He might want to be remembered as a visionary, a worldly philosopher and a great humanitarian, but unlike governors and members of Congress he is, in fact, our Commander in Chief. While there is no constitutional right to enter this country, presidents have a clear constitutional obligation to defend it from enemies foreign as well as domestic. Our near and long term national security depends on this president’s unambiguous acceptance of that responsibility.
Bob Brown is Montana’s former secretary of state