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For Syrian Refugees, Borrow a Page from the 1980 Mariel Boat-lift

Before rushing out and opening the country to any immigrant group, we must start to ask a few frank questions that maybe we never did. For example, if you’re not willing to stand up and fight for your own country especially when it is under attack or at war, will you ever stand up and defend the United States? Granted, there are exceptions. There always will be.

Why can’t refugees be housed closer to home until the conflict is over? Is anybody paying attention to what the FBI director said to Congress last week? What database is the Department of Homeland Security going to use to screen Syrian refugees, a Syrian database? As U.S. policymakers consider options, these and related questions need to be asked.

In the greater Middle East in places like Syria, however, we should be looking for freedom fighters, not immediately try to create escape valves for problems. Opening our doors without seriously exploring other options would be a serious mistake. The United States has defended liberty in that part of the world for some time. Our allies must step up as well. The Obama Administration, with European help, has made of mess of things there. And it is only going to deteriorate.

The Friday the 13th Paris terrorist attacks by radicalized Islamists – an incident, or set of incidents, that may or may not be over – has served as a wake up call to political leaders around the world to take stock of foreign policy and related matters such as border security. In the United States, more than half of our governors, rightly so, have called for a moratorium on Syrian refugee resettlement. Efforts are reportedly underway to block the federal government from placing poorly screened immigrants throughout the U.S.

I’ve read commentary by several immigration lawyers, most with little, if any, foreign or national security policy experience, that the states have no power to block Uncle Sam. One even had the audacity to argue that there is nothing that Congress can do about that, the Supreme Court has said so. This fellow needs to dust off his U.S. Constitution because it seems like he is spending too much time parsing the edge of legal penumbras.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power, not the Executive, “[t]o establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization.” The Supreme Court has ruled consistently since the late 19th century that this power is virtually un-reviewable because the federal government, primarily the Congress, has to ensure the safety of the union as well as help plan for the conduct of foreign affairs.

As Justice Scalia penned in Arizona v. United States the “naturalization power was given to Con­gress not to abrogate States’ power to exclude those they did not want, but to vindicate it.” Yes, the President can, legally, arrange to bring refugees in to the country, however, the states do not have to accept them. Moreover Congress, if it ever wakes up from the immigration slumber its been in for decades, could condition or, indeed, block the entire thing.

Substantive due process lawyering aside, states have a sovereign interest in defending its borders and its people. If just one terrorist slips through our border, and the odds are very high that he or she will. Think Paris Friday the 13th. At a practical level, the odds that the states will succeed in blocking relocation are legally stacked in favor of the Feds. Congress needs to chime in. Fast.

If the Obama Administration insists on pursuing this folly of a strategy, it should borrow a page from the Carter Administration’s handling of the 1980 Mariel Cuban boat lift. Sensing political pressure from dissident leaders and a nascent civil society, the Communist government issued an amnesty and told those who wanted to leave to get out however they could. Close to 125,000 took the Party up on the offer. Of course, the regime also released a few thousand common criminals from prison, about 2% of the total of people who left.

Side Bar: Closer to home there is a potential humanitarian and security crisis underway, courtesy of course of the Communist Party of Cuba and the Obama Administration’s soft approach to the regime. Close to 30,000 Cuban migrants have been processed in Texas this year. To put this number in historical context, in June 1980 – at the height of the Cuban Mariel Boat Lift – 24,000 made it to the United States. Eventually more than 124,000 Cubans – mostly honest and hardworking people – relocated to the United States; two percent (2%), however, were violent criminals freed from Cuban jails.

I should know a thing or two about this incident since my generation experienced it in Miami. Placed in tent as well as military-run compounds, refugees remained in custody until health and security reviews had been completed. Believe it or not, as of a few years ago, there were close to 1,500 Mariel refugees in federal custody. Now that diplomatic relations were – prematurely – restored, I wonder if the Communist Party will take them all back?

Federal government bungling over many decades made it easier for radicalized Islamists to attack the homeland on 09.11, in part, because our immigration laws were so lax. House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling for a “pause” on all Syrian resettlement. That is a good start, but he will need to do a lot better than that. So will the rest of the Congress. This issue could present an opportunity for the Congress to re-assert itself in the immigration policy and regulatory process. They should also stand up for state rights and the Constitution; and, maybe, develop a better approach for dealing with Syrian relocations.

I’m not sure what politicos at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are thinking these days. Fourteen years after 09/11, several billion dollars and a new federal agency or two later, U.S. borders maybe only slightly more secure today than they were then. Why? Because our immigration laws and the system that backs it up are way out of date. The Feds cannot even track people who arrive in this country, legally, who remain in the country well past a visa expiration. A majority of American governors are only expressing what Members of Congress, and our President, are too politically thin-skinned act upon.

The Syrian refugee crisis, and others like it, are humanitarian challenges that are part of the global war against radical Islmaic jihad. We can’t silo the responses to either; especially when the enemy is using the humanitarian crises to advance radical jihad. Whose connecting the dots? 

The American people know that the federal government has failed before on this front. There were many reasons for the 9/11 terror attacks; border security was one of them. And it is well on its way to fail again

Radical Islamic Jihadists have been penetrating the homeland via Central America and Mexico. It is only a matter of time. They will strike us again. That is why before it even contemplates a Mariel response, it is best to shut it all down. No entries from high-risk regions until the Feds improve the integrity of the border security systems. 

The American people want to be safe, first and foremost. The rest? For now, gibberish. 

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