Rights groups "deeply disturbed" at "scapegoating of refugees" and U.S. clampdown

Although none of the identified Paris attackers were refugees, Congress passed an anti-refugee bill — and worse

Published November 19, 2015 9:03PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Bernadett Szabo)
(Reuters/Bernadett Szabo)

The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday afternoon that may prevent Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S., even though there is no evidence refugees were involved in the November 13 Paris attacks.

International humanitarian organization Oxfam condemned the legislation, saying it was "deeply disappointed" by Congress' action. "This legislation is highly unlikely to make America any safer, and will instead effectively bring our successful and longstanding bipartisan resettlement process to a halt," Oxfam said.

The organization also stressed that the "refugee resettlement process currently in place is already incredibly thorough, with refugees facing multiple levels of background checks and investigation that make them by far the most scrutinized people coming into our country."

745,000 refugees have been accepted in the U.S. since the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to the Migration Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan think tank. Of these three-quarters of a million refugees, just two were charged with terrorism-related crimes -- and, even then, the men were charged with providing funds for a foreign terrorist organization, not with actually participating in acts of terrorism.

The Niskanen Center, a pro-immigration think tank, puts those figures even higher. The U.S. has admitted 1.5 million migrants from the Middle East since 9/11, the Niskanen Center says, noting that "there have been no recorded terrorist attacks committed by refugees."

None of the Paris attackers who have been identified so far were refugees. Most were French or Belgian nationals. A top E.U. official emphasized that "the terrorists so far identified tells us this is an internal threat." High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini pointed out that the attackers were "all EU citizens so far," adding that "it is quite clear it is an issue of internal domestic security."

The United Nations has "warned against the scapegoating of refugees, in the wake of the deadly attacks." U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Melissa Fleming said "We are deeply disturbed by language that demonizes refugees as a group. This is dangerous as it will contribute to xenophobia and fear. The security problems Europe faces are highly complex. Refugees should not be turned into scapegoats and must not become the secondary victims of these most tragic events."

Other rights groups have echoed the U.N.'s warnings against turning the refugees into "secondary victims."

"The notion that we would pull the rug out from under the feet of people who have fled their homes for safety is reprehensible, irresponsible, and completely counter to American values," Oxfam maintained. "Rather than demonizing the victims of conflict and terrorism, we should be standing with them, expanding opportunities for refugees to come safely to the US, and finding a lasting solution to Syria's crisis."

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) cautioned that the clampdown on refugees will only make matters worse, while undermining human and civil rights.

"We have been down this road before, and we already know that military responses, restrictions of democratic rights, and hostility and discrimination against Muslims do not stop terrorism. Rather, they provide the perfect breeding ground for terrorism," wrote CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. "Indeed, the bitterest of ironies is that the Paris and Beirut attacks by ISIS are, in some respects, the fruit of the U.S.’s response to 9/11, including the disastrous Iraq war."

At least 31 U.S. states say they will reject Syrian refugees, even though, once again, there is no evidence refugees were involved in the Paris attacks.

Earlier Thursday morning, Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz attempted to ram a citizenship-stripping bill through the Senate, but failed.

All of the Republican presidential candidates have asserted that the U.S. government should refuse Muslim Syrian refugees, even libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush say they would only be willing to take Syrian refugees who can prove they are Christians. Presidential hopeful and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie insists the U.S. should even turn away five-year-old Syrian orphans.

In moves critics have compared to early 20th-century fascism, a top lawmaker in Tennessee proposed using the military to "gather up" Syrian refugees, and a Virginia mayor invoked the U.S. government's use of internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII as a reason to reject Syrian refugees.

Watch the GOP's ludicrous responses to the Syrian refugee crisis:

[jwplayer file="http://media.salon.com/2015/11/GOP_Refugees.Asha_.11.23.2105.mp4" image="http://media.salon.com/2015/09/syrian_refugees.jpg"][/jwplayer]

Ben Carson Compares Refugees To Rabid Dogs

By Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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