Consequently, more media attention is turning to Cruz. Friday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution had an opinion essay written by Duke University history professor Gunther Peck. He reviews the history of nations accepting refugees and says that refugees, as opposed to immigrants in general, are usually accepted in response to a foreign policy crisis, such as "Cuban refugees fleeing Castro's victories after 1962" and Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
Peck acknowledges that the impulse to accept refugees is stronger when humanitarian imperatives complement positions that also benefit our national interests -- and that we have not been as open when people were fleeing oppression from governments that were U.S. allies, such as Haiti and Guatemala.
Which brings us to Ted Cruz and the paradox of making his refugee-father's story a central theme of his campaign, while now viciously denouncing President Obama's plan to use his executive authority to expand the number of Syrian refugees we accept, which Cruz has called "nothing short of an act of lunacy." As Peck puts it:
"[Cruz] ignored the fact his Cuban-born father would almost certainly have been denied entry and U.S. citizenship if not for Cold War commitments that defined all Cuban migrants as 'refugees.' More important, he undermined the very executive authority he seeks to wield as a future president."When pressed by CNN's Dana Bash to explain his opposition, in view of what it would have meant for his father, Cruz's response was . . . well, rather crude. In Peck's words:
"Cruz asserted virtually all Syrian refugees were potential terrorists, unlike his freedom-loving father. Cruz's broad brush strokes might work well with one slice of the Republican electorate . . . . But Cruz's disavowal of the United States' long history of bipartisan refugee policy is harmful to our national interest. It weakens the nation's credibility in working with Muslim allies, and makes it easier for ISIS and other religious radicals to recruit jihadists against the U.S. and its allies."Notice the slick, dog-whistle communication there: "virtually all were potential terrorists." That doesn't really say anything other than that 'any human being could be a terrorist.' But those programmed to fear unknown terrorists will hear 'Obama wants to let in terrorists.' And then Peck concludes:
"There is no better way to draw a sharp distinction between the aims and methods of ISIS and that of the U.S. government than to remain dedicated to core humanitarian principles, even in the wake of terrorist attack."Yes. Ted Cruz is not the worst of the fear-mongerers. But that arrogant, willfully ignorant line -- "virtually all Syrian refugees were potential terrorists" is the gist of what's wrong with their position. It's Dick Cheney type thinking. If it could possibly happen, assume that it will and muster all self-serving anecdotes (and distort the risk) to strike fear in the heart of the people so they will support what you want to do.
That mentality scares me more than the tiny risk of a terrorist sneaking in as a refugee, despite the most rigorous screening of anyone who comes into our country. It is totally and intentionally false to equate how easy it is for a Syrian terrorist to get into and travel around Europe -- and how difficult it is for a Syrian to be admitted into the U. S. as a refugee. That is the crucial distinction that the anti-refugees politicians fail to acknowledge -- and it makes all the difference.