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Is Congress Bringing Back 1920's Style Immigration Barriers? Pt. 2, Roger Algase

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Update: November 29, 9:25 pm

The New York Times reports (on November 28) that ISIS is carrying out its gruesome series of beheadings and crucifixions in the city of Surt, Lybia, only 400 miles away from Sicily, with impunity and without any bombings or other interference from western military forces.

Meanwhile, Huffington Post reports that even leading Republicans such as Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee are now calling the Colorado Springs attack on a Planned Parenthood center "Domestic Terrorism". (I do not have the link - please go to

When is America going to come to its senses and take steps to deal with the real dangers to this country, ISIS savagery and barbarism in the name of religion and domestic terrorism in the form of uncontrolled gun violence, instead of fiddling around with anti-refugee bills in Congress whose real purpose is to scapegoat and stigmatize all Muslims and would do little or nothing to make America safer?

My original post follows:

This post will continue my discussion concerning the question whether three recent bills which have been introduced by Congressional Republicans (two of which seek to slow down or stop Syrian refugee admissions, and a third which would effectively abolish the H-1B visa) are really intended to protect American security and American jobs, or whether they are in reality a regression to 1920's-style legislation which sought to bar immigration from "undesirable" parts of the world entirely.

I will begin by continuing my discussion of H. R. 4038, which on November 19, passed the House with the support, not only of the Republicans, but also of 47 Democrats who evidently were afraid to be seen as "soft on terrorism" (just as many Democrats were afraid to be seen as "soft on communism" during McCarthy era in the 1950's).

As explained in my November 25 Immigration Daily Post, the evident intent of this bill, at least according to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is to "pause" or slow down the admission of Syrian refugees (of whom the Obama administration is proposing to admit only the token number of 10,000 anyway) by imposing extra layers of bureaucracy onto the screening process.

However, the distinguished immigration legal scholar, Nolan Rappaport, argues (in his November 24 Immigration Daily article) and Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) who is "distinguished" by his bitter opposition to virtually all immigration, also contends, that the House bill would be ineffective in accomplishing its purpose. This is because, according to their analysis of the bill, the president would still have the final say in setting the standards for determining whether any given Syrian refugee is a security risk or not.

The unspoken assumption, similar to the very loudly vocalized assumption by Republican leaders with regard to unauthorized Mexican and other Latino immigrants in the US, is that President Obama (whom many Republican voters still believe to be a foreign born Muslim himself), "cannot be trusted" to do the right thing to protect America from undesirable immigrants.

But there is also a more serious assumption underlying both the House and Senate Syrian refugee bills, one that Nolan dwells on at length in his above article and which needs to be addressed. This is that it is essentially impossible to tell if a given Syrian refugee is a potential terrorist or not. If this assumption is valid, even though Nolan does not expressly say it himself, it could certainly be an argument for not admitting any Syrian refugees at all, period.

As the Papal legate, Arnaud Amalric, Abbot of Citeaux, was reported to have said while attacking Beziers, a town allegedly full of Cathar heretics, on July 22, 1209, in response to intelligence reports that it was impossible to tell which of the inhabitants were good Catholics and which were in fact heretics: "Kill them all - God will recognize His own." ("Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.")

If the intention is to bar all Syrian refugees completely, on the grounds that the available databases and other intelligence can never be enough to provide absolute certainty that a given refugee is not a terrorist, why not pass a simple one-sentence bill barring all Syrian refugees from the United States permanently, instead of the more complex and convoluted House and Senate bills now under discussion?

(One might want to make an exception for children under five years old, but evidently Governor Chris Christie, R-NJ, has a problem with that, even though, as I never tire of pointing out, he has not yet taken any action to protect his state against "terrorist toddlers" by shutting down the George Washington Bridge.)

No doubt, Nolan makes a strong case for the uncertainty involved in "vetting" Syrian refugees. In his above article, he writes:

"USCIS official, Matthew Emrich, has said that the government does not have access to any database in Syria that can be used to check the backgrounds of incoming refugees against criminal and terrorist records. Former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes said, 'Our human sources [in Syria] are minimal, and we don't have a government we can partner with, and that's a key thing.'"

Nolan continues:

"According to National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen, 'the intelligence picture that we've had of this [Syrian] conflict zone isn't what we'd like it to can only review data against what you have.' FBI Director James Comey testified to the Homeland Security Committee in October that, 'we can only query against the data we've collected.'"

Not surprisingly, Assad's brutal, Russian-backed dictatorship might conceivably not bother to keep as careful records as our intelligence services would like of the backgrounds and affiliations of the people it blows to bits with barrel bombs or (reportedly) kills with chemical weapons. If it does, evidently, it may not be forthcoming in sharing that information with the United States

In the same way, ISIS might not be quite up to US standards in record keeping of the people, including not only Christian "infidels" and "crusaders", but also Shia Muslims and other Muslim "apostates" who do not buy into its violent, inhuman agenda of sadism and cruelty toward "unbelievers", before beheading, crucifying, or burning them alive.

Or if it has such background records and databases, for some reason ISIS does not seem willing to share them with the United States either. But how often has the US had access to databases and background checks by other dictatorships and evil regimes from whom we have accepted refugees in the past?

In the 1930's, the US accepted at least a few Jewish refugees, despite turning most of them away because of popular prejudice, as I have described in my previous posts. Was Hitler considerate enough to share German records (which must almost certainly have existed - no one has ever accused the Gestapo of being incompetent) concerning criminal and security background checks on these refugees before America or any other countries took them in? Not very likely, according to any history about the Holocaust period that I have ever read.

The Atlantic, in a November 18 article, points out that security has never been a big problem with the numerous refugees whom America has taken in from many different countries in the past. See Can Terrorists Really Infiltrate the Syrian Refugee Program?

The Arlantic quotes Kathleen Newland, a senior fellow and co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute, as stating that the US might have less data on Syria than Iraq or Afghanistan, but "I don't think that there's less information than there would be from any other refugee population" and that refugees from a "well-organized" society like Syria would be more likely to have documentation than those fleeing impoverished countries.

The same article also points out the refugee applicants are already subject to the highest level of security checks of any type of traveler to the US, with the average check taking up two years before arrival in America. Even Nolan writes that if a terrorist were trying to enter the US, there would be good reasons why applying to do so as a refugee would be low down or last on his or her list of choices.

Moreover, according to The Atlantic:

"As U.S. officials and refugee advocates point out, that [terrorist infiltration of refugee groups] has never happened in modern history. Not when the U.S. took in tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970's. Not when 125,000 Cuban "Marielitos" arrived by boat in 1980. And not in the desperate aftermath of the more recent wars in Bosnia, Somalia or Rwanda. 'Those fears have proven unfounded' said John Sandweg, a former acting director of ICE who previously served as a top lawyer at the Department of Homeland Security."

"But," one might argue, "there was no ISIS in Vietnam or Cuba. Syria is different." No one in communist Vietnam, which had just beaten the US in a war in which 50,000 American soldiers were killed, or in Castro's Cuba, which in 1962 came close to causing a nuclear war which could have destroyed all of humanity by being willing to accept Soviet missiles, who wanted to harm the United States?

Were these countries not professed allies of Soviet Russia, a country with a huge army and thousands of nuclear missiles, infinitely more powerful than ISIS, and whose leader, Nikita Khrushchev, once famously said to America: "We will bury you"?

Our politicians and pundits today who think that America is in unprecedented danger of terrorist infiltration among refugees today have either very short memories or an amazing capacity for amnesia. The reality is that even though America has had foreign enemies who would like to have harmed us for most, if not all, of the past century, and who have often had far greater capacity to do so than ISIS has today, as The Atlantic points out:

"'I think I can count on one hand the number of crimes of any significance that I've heard have been committed by refugees' said Lavinia Limon, a veteran of refugee work since 1975 and the President of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. "It just hasn't been an issue.'"

So why is it an issue now? Is it because there is any serious danger that the Syrian refugees who have the most to fear from and whose lives have been most disrupted by the ISIS crimes against humanity will suddenly turn around and carry out its work of barbarism and terror? Or is it because there is so much political advantage to be gained in America today by demonizing and vilifying all Muslims, including but by no means limited to Syrian refugees, without making any distinction among them?

I will look more closely at this question in my next section of these comments.

To be continued in Part 3.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, he has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas and green cards. Roger's email address is

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Updated 11-29-2015 at 08:27 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs

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  1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    Comment withdrawn.
  2. Unregistered222's Avatar
    Wow Roger. Sinking to new lows.

    "'I think I can count on one hand the number of crimes of any significance that I've heard have been committed by refugees' said Lavinia Limon, a veteran of refugee work since 1975 and the President of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. "It just hasn't been an issue.'"

    I surely would like to see this Lavinia creature, she must have a rather unusual hand with a lot of fingers Of course, who would expect any other statement from someone who makes a living (and I'm sure big amount of US taxpayers $$$) bringing these "refugees" here.

    I, probably, could not live with a clear conscience doing a business like that. I would have resigned after Boston marathon murders and spent the rest of my life apologizing to the relatives of innocent people, who were murdered by these savage "refugee" animals. However this person would surely disagree with me.

    Quote Originally Posted by ImmigrationLawBlogs
    Comment withdrawn.
  3. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    I just want to make two points about Roger's article.

    1. No one is seeking absolute certainty in the background investigations of Syrian refugees. The problem is that little, if any, information is available from within Syria. This reminds me of the situation with FBI refugee name checks when I was an immigration counsel on the House Judiciary Committee. Refugees were being held in dangerous refugee camps for six or more months while the FBI completed the name check process, and I was not able to get the process expedited in urgent cases. I did my own investigation and learned that no refugee application had ever been denied on the basis of a name check? Why? Because the terrorists and other groups that the FBI was looking for were not giving their real names. Now we have a security clearance process that takes almost two years, and in the case of refugees from Syria, the records being checked have no information. Does anyone know if the security checks on Syrian refugees have turned up anything at all? Somehow, the Administration has decided that security clearances are good if they take a long time.

    For the record, I am not trying to stop Syrian refugees from coming here. I want the government to find a way to obtain the information they need to do real security clearances.

    2. We had a hearing on Chinese economic espionage when I was an immigration counsel. The Chinese government didn't have its spies come here as doctors and scientists for American research projects so they could steal our technology. They waited until legitimate Chinese doctors and scientists were here and talked them into stealing technology secrets. And apparently, ISIS is doing the same thing with refugees. An article in the news today includes the following comments:

    "German authorities are growing increasingly concerned that newly arrived refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East are being recruited by radical Islamists once they arrive in the country.

    The Wall Street Journal, citing interviews with security officials from across Germany, reports that an increasing number of refugees are attending services at mosques that investigators believe attract extremists.*

    The report brings into focus a different dimension to the possible security risk posed by asylum-seekers who have flooded into Western Europe for months. Some of the ISIS terrorists who killed 130 people in Paris earlier this month posed as refugees from Syria's civil war to slip into Europe and meet their co-conspirators.

    However, security officials tell the Journal that they have already reported more than 100 cases in which known Islamists have tried to contact refugees. Aid agencies report that the suspects have reached out to the new arrivals with offers of food, shelter, and use of German interpreters, as well as copies of the Koran and traditional Muslim clothing."

    German officials warn of homegrown Islamists trying to radicalize refugees
  4. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I am just a tiny little bit suspicious of Nolan's source of information to back up his statement that homegrown German Muslims are allegedly trying to radicalize Syrian refugees who arrive in that country. Nolan's source is Fox News.

    This is not to say that everything Fox reports is false; there are no doubt times when even Fox may occasionally stray over onto the side of truth, such as when giving the weather report, for example.

    But concern for the truth obviously did not play a big role in the news item that Nolan cites. Let me quote from the Fox News article in question:

    "Some of the ISIS terrorists who killed 130 people in Paris earlier this month posed as refugees from Syria's civil war to slip into Europe and meet their co-conspirators,"

    It is just a little curious that, according to every single other media outlet I have seen that has reported on the Paris attacks, there is no hard evidence that even a single one of the attackers had any refugee connections.

    At the most, there was a purported Syrian passport found near one of attackers, but according to every other media report I have seen, this passport is suspected by officials to have been fake. Therefore, the above Fox News statement appears to have been a total lie.

    But let us assume for a moment that there are homegrown European ISIS sympathizers who might try to radicalize Syrian refugees entering that continent. If the refugee in question has never supported the radicals or acted in any way on their behalf, would that be a reason not to let him or her in?

    It might be a good reason to keep close tabs on people (or, yes, even mosques) in Germany or any other country that are known to have radical views, but not to refuse entry to innocent refugees who have no terrorist connections and have never supported terrorists or radicals.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 11-30-2015 at 07:46 PM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
  5. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    Roger seems to have a double standard. He challenges the reliability of the Fox News report, but he is fine with our national security being based on information that the head of the FBI and the DHS Secretary have said is inadequate
  6. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
    I am not arguing with Nolan's objective of trying to get the best information about refugees available, while at the same time accepting the reality than in most refugee cases, perfect background information is an impossible goal and always has been.

    I am only objecting to his citing a Fox News story which, based on all available information, appears to be without a single grain of truth in support of his contentions.

    With regard to Nolan's point concerning the imperfect nature of doing background checks on refugees, persecutors do not normally have a habit of sharing their databases with refugee officials, if such databases even exist in the first instance. How thorough are ISIS's background checks before they behead or crucify their victims? And even if ISIS had databases, would Nolan rely on them as a good source for doing security checks?

    Moreover, how many terror attacks have we had in America from the 3.25 million refugees (according to one estimate) whom we have admitted in that past 40 years, especially compared to the attacks we have witnessed, of which Colorado Springs is only the latest, from homegrown white supremacists, abortion opponents and other assorted right wing fanatics?

    In many cases, these domestic terror attacks have been incited by domestic hate groups or even, as arguably in the Colorado Springs case, by Republican politicians who have been carrying on a vicious propaganda attack against the target organization, Planned Parenthood.

    Nolan's argument is based on the assumption that Middle Eastern Muslim refugees should be assumed to be more dangerous than any of the domestic right wing terrorists who have become almost commonplace in America. In support of his argument, he cites a Fox News article alleging that some of the Paris attackers entered Europe as refugees so they could coordinate with their co-conspirators.

    The Fox story does not give any source for this highly inflammatory story. The obvious purpose is to create public fear and hatred against all Muslim refugees.

    Unfortunately for Nolan's argument, based on all information which has been reported elsewhere so far, this Fox story appears to be nothing but a total, out and out lie (like so many other Fox News stories).

    Nolan's points might be more convincing if could cite truthful news reports to back them up, not false ones.

    Roger Algase
    Attorney at Law
    Updated 12-01-2015 at 07:13 AM by ImmigrationLawBlogs
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