sexta-feira, 20 de novembro de 2015
Refugee Vote a Failure for Obama / New York Times
Refugee Vote a Failure for Obama
By ELIZABETH WILLIAMSON NOVEMBER 19, 2015 5:18 PM
On Thursday the House overwhelmingly passed H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015, which aims to stop resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States indefinitely. The Senate is expected to debate the bill after Thanksgiving. Its fate is uncertain there, and if it reaches President Obama’s desk, he has said he will veto it. But in a stunning rebuke to the White House, the legislation passed the House with a veto-proof majority.
There is little doubt that the bill’s Republican sponsors exploited fear aroused by the Paris terror attacks to build support for it, seeing a handy opportunity to pursue a broader anti-immigrant agenda. It is a shame that the nearly 50 Democrats who voted for this measure couldn’t find it in themselves to resist.
But not for the first time, President Obama failed to read the mood of Congress and by extension many Americans, who after the Paris attacks are fearful of admitting anybody from the Middle East. Traveling in Asia with his closest advisors, the president was hampered in his effort to lobby Democrats besieged by calls from constituents terrified that the United States is next.
In a last-ditch effort to head off Democratic defections, the president dispatched Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, and Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, to the Hill on Thursday.
They and other administration officials have struggled mightily to assure Americans of the safety of the refugee resettlement program. The United States has accepted 1,200 Syrian refugees this year, and three quarters of them are women and children. Only 2 percent of those admitted have been military-aged males not traveling with families. It takes up to two years for a refugee from Iraq or Syria to be approved for admission; nearly half are rejected. Stopping refugees at the border will have little to no impact on the movement of terrorists, who generally either enter illegally or are born here.
But for nearly a week now, Americans have been watching footage of the horror in Paris. They’ve seen the carnage, and absorbed the utter randomness of the attacks. Most important, they have taken in the fact that at least one of the attackers may have made it to France as a refugee.
For them, the facts of the refugee program are not enough. For legislators, next year is an election year. As a result, even House Democratic leaders refused to tell legislators how to vote. “I’ve said to them from the start, ‘Nobody’s asked you to do anything. Do whatever works for you, for your district,’” said Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader, who voted against the bill. Some in the congressional delegation from New York spoke eloquently against the bill, but others lambasted the administration for asking them to take a vote that could doom their reelection chances.
The urgency of Americans’ worry made it imperative that the administration provide political cover for Democrats to vote their consciences. The president has more than a week before debate begins in the Senate to absorb Thursday’s message and act upon that most basic of truisms: You can’t fight emotion with facts.