On the surface, it’s simple: The State Department is going to resettle 7,000 Iraqi refugees in the U.S. by the end of September, refugees who are currently waiting in third countries like Syria and Jordan. Under the circumstances we have perhaps more than the usual reasons for accommodating them here.
But beneath the surface lurk a few points that might benefit from more discussion:
(1) Who are these refugees seeking refuge from? Are they fleeing the current Iraqi government that we’re trying to support? If so, why? If not, is this official recognition on our part that the government we support is not, in fact, in charge? For years, gloomy appraisals of the situation in Iraq have been widely blamed on left-wing bias in the “MSM.” Does anyone think it’s the MSM that induced all these people to leave their homes?
(2) How do these refugees differ from the millions of others whom we are not resettling? According to this report, 2 million Iraqis have fled the country and 1.7 million more are internally displaced. Are these 7,000 the only ones with connections good enough to get them here? Are they the only ones who want to come to the U.S.? I don’t know enough even to speculate, but it seems to me the selection principle might be informative in our domestic debate about the war.
(3) One of the reasons immigration is such a sensitive issue in the U.S. right now is because of concern that terrorists will infiltrate our relatively open society in order to do us harm. I assume we believe these are friendly Iraqis who are fleeing unfriendly Iraqis, but how do we know? Isn’t our inability to distinguish friends from enemies a big part of the problem over there? I see that the refugees are to be interviewed by DHS officials before they come here. If DHS officials are so good at discerning which Iraqis bear us malice in their hearts, shouldn’t we be sending those DHS officials to Iraq to work with the troops?
(4) The article says the administration wants Congress to pass legislation to facilitate the admission of “other Iraqis who are at special risk in Iraq because of their close association with the U.S. government.” That’s fairly vague, but I can’t help wondering how the long-term evacuation of those who have worked closely with the U.S. government fits in with a policy of standing down as the Iraqis stand up.
I certainly don’t want to discourage the administration from dealing humanely with the refugee problem by holding it to its prior ideological commitments; on the contrary, I take this as a hopeful sign that the utopianism of those commitments is beginning to lose its delusive grip.