For the past few months, the question of admitting tens of thousands of Syrian refugees has rocked the American political landscape, and predictably the issue has been remarkably polarized. Many on the Left, including both Democratic presidential candidates, have advocated for a massive domestic resettlement effort, while those on the Right favor either granting asylum only to Christian refugees or admitting no refugees.
On February 3, Congress joined in the debate through a public hearing hosted by the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee. The hearing, which analyzed Canada’s plans to screen and admit 25,000 Syrian refugees, invoked the testimony of both Canadian and U.S. experts, including U.S. border officials. This scrutiny of our northern neighbor’s refugee plans is evidently Congress’s attempt to check for flaws in the Canadian system (which could result in potentially violent migrants living dangerously close to the United States) and to better understand whether the Obama administration’s vetting program will be effective.
The Senate’s hearing comes hot on the heels of terrorist acts perpetrated by Middle Eastern immigrants across the globe, which have seriously complicated the conversation on Syrian refugees. Last month, for instance, an Islamic State operative from Syria killed 10 Western tourists through a suicide bombing in Turkey, and on New Year’s Eve a group of 1,000 confirmed Arab and North African asylum-seekers robbed and sexually assaulted literally hundreds of women in Cologne, Germany. Even in the United States, the federal government recently arrested two Iraqi-born refugees, in Sacramento and Houston, for plotting with terror groups and lying about their activity.
As the hearing demonstrated, the controversy surrounding refugees in America has focused almost entirely on the potential threat to national security, and the possibility—or probability, rather—of ISIS capitalizing on open borders to plant insurgents into the country.
While these points are undoubtedly legitimate and signify cause for concern, the potential cultural implications of a large-scale Muslim migration into the United States have, on the whole, been relegated to the sidelines of the national conversation. This part of the discussion is equally important, however, because it exposes how open borders are quite contrary to liberal Americans’ own values and interests.
A Culture Antithetical to American Values
According to available statistics, the vast majority of Syrian refugees that have been admitted to the United States since 2011 are Muslim, and given the fact that only about 10 percent of all global refugees are Christian, it’s safe to infer that the majority of refugees settling in other parts of the globe are also Muslim.
In their rush to appear as compassionate champions of Syrian refugees, many liberals have apparently forgotten how marginalized groups are treated in the majority-Muslim countries of the Middle East. According to a report by the World Health Organization in 2013, rates of domestic violence are the highest by far in the Muslim countries of North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
It’s only been within the past 15 to 20 years that women have gained access to political rights and offices in some of these countries, yet despite this, women are still openly harassed in public, completely undermined by many of their states’ legal systems, and severely restricted from basic civil rights, particularly the freedoms of choice and expression. Incredibly, it’s still not uncommon for young women to be forced to marry someone who rapes or assaults them—a reality that stems from regional religious and cultural views of honor.
Gays have it even worse than women. Homosexual behavior and LGBT expression is either illegal or severely restricted in all countries of the Middle East besides Israel, and punishments include lifelong imprisonment or execution. Indeed, Israel is the only country in the region that recognizes same-sex marriage, provides for adoption by same-sex couples, and allows gays to serve in the military. As for transgender individuals, the Left’s darling new minority group? Only Israel, Iran, and Syria provide legal recognition for changes in gender identity.
Recent events in Europe show that incoming refugees are not so quick to abandon their native cultural attitudes. Last month, gay refugees in the Netherlands had to be moved to separate facilities after other refugees attacked them, and across Europe facilities are being built specifically for LGBT refugees because of at least a hundred reports of assault.
The Cologne attacks clearly demonstrate that many refugees have no qualms assaulting and robbing women, and several other European countries have been dealing with a spike in rapes in migrant-heavy areas for the past several years. This has lead some, like Norway, to institute classes at asylum centers teaching refugees how to treat women properly.
While this may help prevent further attacks, it likely won’t be that easy for refugees to conform to Western cultural standards so quickly. After all, many have grown up in extremely patriarchal societies where any scantily clad woman is understood to be a prostitute and even the slightest display of skin is taken as an invitation for sex.
Is it really the progressive thing to do to grant indefinite sanctuary to individuals who are committed to such fundamentally different ways of life? This is a question that liberals—especially women and gays—should ask themselves before jumping into the open border abyss.
A Potential Long-Term Problem
Presented with this mounting evidence, some on the Left have attempted to negate concerns that Europe’s refugee problems will manifest in America, arguing that the overseas case is different because their incoming refugees are overwhelmingly young men, a demographic naturally prone to such violent behavior. They further point out that the United Nations has said it plans to direct mostly women and children across the Atlantic, and that the Obama administration has sworn the government’s vetting process will grant preference to these ostensibly less-threatening refugees.
While women and children do make up a large portion of the potential refugees to the United States, no one can say for certain that young men or potential ISIS insurgents will not get past government screening. But let’s say for a moment that, unlike most things run by the government, the vetting system is actually effective and does bar potentially disruptive refugees, allowing only the harmless women and children as Obama promised. Would this situation leave liberals with no cause for concern?
Peter Skerry at The Weekly Standard offers insightful information about the nature of Muslim immigration and assimilation that suggest otherwise. He explains that, generally, immigrant parents reconcile with what’s known as “the brutal bargain.” They reluctantly come to terms with what they lost in leaving their homeland by comparing their past circumstances to their newer, better prospects in America.
Moreover, while Muslims are remarkably assimilated in some respects—most speak English, earn a decent living, and attend American schools—a notable shift occurs as the second generation comes of age. This generation likely grows up seeing their parents deal with the realities of the bargain. For example, first-generation parents might acquiesce to American social norms in the public sphere, grateful to be making a decent living in a safe environment, but at home they’ll express intense disapproval of American culture—especially youth culture—even if they aren’t particularly observant Muslims.
Skerry explains that their children, whose only real home has been the United States, may inherit their parents’ cultural disapproval but lack the same sense of obligatory appreciation that led their parents to assimilate. Thus, when it comes to assimilation, they may “[try] self-consciously to apply the brakes, even to reverse the process in order to regain what many feel has been lost.”
What’s more is that today’s liberals—who control most of education, including the public schools and colleges these immigrant children eventually attend—relentlessly teach immigrants and minority groups that they’re perpetual victims of a racist American society, and that they should hate the governing system that granted their ancestors protection.
Indeed, many on the Left have completely abandoned assimilation, which they regard only as a synonym for “racism,” “xenophobia,” and “white supremacy,” while worshipping their religions of multiculturalism, diversity, and tolerance. It’s likely because of the global Left’s obsessive, coercive commitment to these principles that German police attempted to cover up the sexual assault epidemic—something authorities in other European nations have also been doing—to protect refugees from any perceived “discrimination.”
While there may be no apparent threat in admitting fleeing Muslim families to the United States, liberals are creating an environment for potentially deadly anti-American sentiment to fester when they encourage migrants to simultaneously preserve their native culture and abhor their new American one.
ISIS and other terror groups have already proven their digital arms extend across the Atlantic and into the United States. The San Bernardino shooters, for instance, long-time residents in the United States who became radicalized domestically, as evidenced by their communication with overseas terror groups prior to the massacre. Who’s to say ISIS or another terror organization won’t similarly manipulate future Muslim-Americans?
Open Borders Lead to a Culture of Fear
You’ll recall that the media absolutely lost its collective mind when Donald Trump suggested a temporary ban on Muslim immigration in response to the Paris attacks. You couldn’t go to any news outlet without seeing Trump’s name in top headlines. Yet despite all the attacks and accusations of Republican xenophobia most mainstream media outlets launched, Trump’s lead in the polls only expanded after his suggested ban, proving that a good chunk of Americans actually liked the sound of his policy.
Liberals are right when they say that closing our borders to refugees in desperate need of help is inconsistent with our American (and Judeo-Christian inspired) values. They are also right when they argue that increasing surveillance on American Muslims and letting in some refugees over others—based on religion, perhaps—is discriminatory and inconsistent with constitutional principles.
But as the Wall Street Journal correctly notes, sometimes it’s in our national interest to “accept small infringements on liberty” such as these, because “the consequences of failure will be so much worse for liberal values” and for the nation as a whole. Keeping out certain demographics of immigrants as a temporary policy solution might certainly be worth it if the wrong handful of individuals gain access into the country and commit a Paris-style terror attack.
If you have trouble imagining the restrictions placed on the personal liberties of all Americans that would likely follow such an event, think back to the Patriot Act and the post-9/11 paranoia. Or, even more extreme, think of the Japanese internment camps during World War II, which were an egregious violation of civil rights that grew out of the fear instilled by Pearl Harbor.
In any case, we know that liberals’ unequivocal support for open borders and unfiltered immigration on a massive scale only increases “xenophobic” sentiment among Americans. We’ve already seen some lawmakers move further down that path as a consequence of the massive amounts of Hispanic aliens who have entered the country and not assimilated particularly well. Adopting the same unwavering stance for Muslim migration would only compound the polarized political landscape, reducing the chances of the United States providing assistance for any refugees.
It’s certainly tempting to sift through heart-wrenching pictures of starved Syrian children and passionately condemn those opposed to their immediate entry as heartless, nonsensical, and even monstrous. But liberals shouldn’t let their commitment to compassion blind them to the potential consequences of mass Muslim migration—consequences that would utterly contradict their own interests and beliefs. If they don’t lift the veil, they’ll fail to realize that the most compassionate thing to do isn’t to open the border, but rather to focus their efforts on eliminating the evil that’s pushing the refugees out of their homeland in the first place.
Correction: The classes for refugees in Norway were voluntary, not mandatory. And one of the San Bernardino shooters was born outside the United States. We regret the errors.