Here’s why refugees are not the same as candy.
…aside from the obvious answer that not everyone is as stupid as Donald Trump Jr.
There’s been a good deal of discussion about Donald Trump Jr.’s now infamous “skittles tweet,” but there’s been very little discussion of another tweet he sent out around the same time:
While his tweet contains a link to a Politico piece (which is not great), the piece itself is actually a rehash of this report from the Associated Press, which itself is about an Inspector General (OIG) Investigation (more on that later). The AP piece is running in a lot of papers, but I stubbed my toe on this particular Town Hall article, which inaccurately conflates “refugees” with all immigrants. To wit, members of the Trump campaign are doing the same thing, as the Washington Post notes.
Despite Town Hall‘s conclusions, the OIG report is actually not about 800 refugees. If you take a closer look at the report the piece is talking about (PDF), the word “refugee” appears exactly zero times. When you get into the deep muck of the report, it is about the naturalization process centering on fingerprint data from an old system (old = 8 years ago) not being properly transferred to a new system, and the Inspector General is recommending changes to the system to fix it (as “he” is want to do). It also notes that while 858 immigrants were inappropriately naturalized, they’re taking steps towards denaturalizing a number of them. But let’s be clear here: the report is not about the refugee program.
The distinction between an “immigrant” and a “refugee” is important. Just like all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon, while all refugees may be immigrants, not all immigrants are refugees. For instance, a person who comes to the US with a temporary work visa or by other means goes through a different vetting process than someone going through the refugee program. If you try to come to the US as a refugee, you first have to be officially granted that status by the UN (which has their own vetting process). Then, following a rigorous, two-year investigation by the US, you are granted entry to the US as a refugee. All in all, it can take a Syrian refugee up to three years to be granted entry, with the majority of those granted refugee status being women and children. This process, almost literally, is the least effective means for a terrorist to come to the US. When you think about how long the process takes, and how invasive it is, it would actually be easier for the aspiring terrorist to swim across the Atlantic Ocean (and be subject to whatever fate befalls him).
That’s why Trump Jr’s analogy doesn’t work. We’re not taking in a handful of skittles every year. The Cato Institute did a study of the threat posed by immigrants, with a special focus dedicated to refugees; they released this report last week (also a PDF). Their findings show — based on terrorist attacks from 1975 to 2015 — that the average American’s chances of being killed by a foreign-born terrorist are 1 in 3,606,709, every year. However, when you change the controlling factor for refugees, you get 1 in 3.64 billion a year. In other words, you have a greater chance of winning the Powerball 2,080 times a year than being killed by a refugee. As a bonus analogy (that actually makes sense, because you can’t play the Powerball 2,080 times a year): It is actually way more likely that Donald Trump Jr. will share a Neo-Nazi meme on Twitter than it is for you to be killed by a refugee. I mean, the guy must have the worst luck in the world, right? It’s almost like he’s drawn to these websites. Crazy.*
While the State Department and the FBI Director both said the system isn’t perfect, they both acknowledge that while our system is rigorous and they have full confidence in it, no system can be perfect.
The simplest answer to this is that in a free society, you are never going to be perfectly safe. I find it odd that people who support Trump and his son’s way of thinking are also largely pro-gun rights. You are much more likely to be shot by a fellow citizen — by accident or on purpose — than you are likely to be killed by a refugee, so why not ban and confiscate all guns? This is a game the Democrats also like to play (funny how Trump, who was registered as a Democrat up until 2009, uses the same tactics), where they say higher measures of gun control will stop mass shootings. The truth is, while those measures could reduce gun violence in general, mass shootings are very difficult to prevent through regulation.
The trick is to try and find the balance. Every day life in America shouldn’t be like The Purge, but it also doesn’t have to be like Mussolini’s Italy. Trump’s demagoguery is similar because they are obfuscating an issue (safety) and blaming it on the “other,” in this case immigrants and refugees.
Personally, this is why I find Trump’s tactics so evil (generally) and anti-Biblical (specifically). In the Old Testament, at a time when the pagan gods of the Middle East were identifying themselves with power, like lightning or the sun, the God of the Bible identified Himself with four groups: The immigrant, the widow, the orphan, and the poor. This aspect of Fascism (and people who would practice a sort of Neo-Fascism) is the antithesis of my faith, which is why I cannot support Trump (amongst many other reasons).
*Yes, I think Donald Trump Jr. is a white supremacist, or at least pretends to be one (which might be worse!).