Congressman Bruce Poliquin puts Maine safety first with Syrian Refugees

As crackdowns continue and security measures rise in Europe, the rest of the world prepares to lockdown its defenses as ISIS prepares its next move against its multiple intended targets. The issue of the Syrian Refugees has become its own debate since the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris.

My previous article discussing Governor Paul LePage’s opposition to Syrian Refugees proved to be a controversial piece, because of the nature of the conflicts in the Middle East and how its tragically affecting the refugees who wish to escape it. The argument against myself, Governor LePage and those concerned about the refugee program, is that this is a humanitarian crisis and we must step up to the plate.

This is a fair concern. In watching hostilities abroad, it is clearly affecting men, woman, and children, whether it be in death or displacement.

In a statement from Congressman Bruce Poliquin, he echoed the concerns of many. At the core of his concern, is the fact that ISIS is exploiting the program to sneak terrorists into target areas and prepare to ignite widespread terror attacks.

A specific quote from the statement reads:

“That is why I am proud to join my colleagues in demanding that federal funds are not used to admit refugees from Syria into the United States until national security agencies put in place effective processes to ensure that no suspected or potential terrorists are allowed to cross our borders.

Critics of concerned individuals state that this is xenophobic and racist, and that there is a hatred of the Syrians. This is not the case, however.

Take note of Congressman Poliquin’s statement, where he doesn’t state he’s necessarily opposed to refugees seeking refugee here, but that he believes we should properly and thoroughly vet those coming to our country. This is not unreasonable.

Governor LePage’s communications director Peter Steele spoke to the Portland Press Herald regarding the Governor’s concern, which echoes Congressman Poliquin:

LePage was traveling Tuesday to Las Vegas to attend a conference of the Republican Governors Association, but his communications director, Peter Steele, said the governor has strong objections to any refugees who are “not property vetted and thoroughly screened.”

“Allowing thousands of unscreened refugees, especially those coming from countries with factions determined to harm Americans, is reckless and could be deadly,” Steele said in an email. “This is not like your great-grandfather’s immigration to America. Very dangerous people are trying to get into our country to do us great harm.”

Though it’s not only Republicans who are expressing concerns. In addition to New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, independent U.S. Senator Angus King has also stated concerns are legitimate.

As quoted in the Portland Press Herald:

Even Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the fears are legitimate, and that now might be a good time to examine current policy.

“That’s why Congress should evaluate who we let into the country and make sure that process is meeting the needs demanded by this threat,” King said. “The intelligence committee is reviewing our government’s ability to track terrorist threats, and I intend to thoroughly exercise my oversight role as a member of that committee to see that the American people are protected.”

Like with others, Senator King’s position is not unreasonable, but rather responsible. The unfortunate nature of the screening process is, as it stands, it may not be enough.

FBI director James Comey recently admitted as such at a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing, as quoted by the Daily Caller:

FBI director James Comey said during a House Committee on Homeland Security hearing on Wednesday that the federal government does not have the ability to conduct thorough background checks on all of the 10,000 Syrian refugees that the Obama administration says will be allowed to come to the U.S.

“We can only query against that which we have collected,” Comey said in response to a line of questioning from Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson .

“And so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing show up because we have no record of them.”

Comey also made note of why we shouldn’t be comparing this refugee crisis to previous ones:

He also acknowledged differences in the U.S.’s ability to screen Syrian refugees compared to how Iraqi refugees were vetted in the aftermath of the Iraq War.

“And with respect with Iraqi databases, we had far more because of our country’s work there for a decade,” he said.

“This is a different situation.”

The FBI has also previously acknowledged that terrorists have successfully entered the country, posing as refugees.

A 2013 article from ABC News notes what the FBI had to say about the issue:

Several dozen suspected terrorist bombmakers, including some believed to have targeted American troops, may have mistakenly been allowed to move to the United States as war refugees, according to FBI agents investigating the remnants of roadside bombs recovered from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The discovery in 2009 of two al Qaeda-Iraq terrorists living as refugees in Bowling Green, Kentucky — who later admitted in court that they’d attacked U.S. soldiers in Iraq — prompted the bureau to assign hundreds of specialists to an around-the-clock effort aimed at checking its archive of 100,000 improvised explosive devices collected in the war zones, known as IEDs, for other suspected terrorists’ fingerprints.

The ABC News article discusses the case of Waad Ramadan Alwan, who “was allowed to move to Bowling Green, where he quit a job he briefly held and moved into public housing on Gordon Ave., across the street from a school bus stop, and collected public assistance payouts, federal officials told ABC News.”

Allowing someone who claims to be a refugee is a good thing to do, right? Unfortunately, not everyone who claims to be a refugee is a refugee.

A couple of points from ABC News:

An ABC News investigation of the flawed U.S. refugee screening system, which was overhauled two years ago, showed that Alwan was mistakenly allowed into the U.S. and resettled in the leafy southern town of Bowling Green, Kentucky, a city of 60,000 which is home to Western Kentucky University and near the Army’s Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. Alwan and another Iraqi refugee, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, 26, were resettled in Bowling Green even though both had been detained during the war by Iraqi authorities, according to federal prosecutors.

Also:

But the FBI discovered that Alwan had been arrested in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 2006 and confessed on video made of his interrogation then that he was an insurgent, according to the U.S. military and FBI, which obtained the tape a year into their Kentucky probe. In 2007, Alwan went through a border crossing to Syria and his fingerprints were entered into a biometric database maintained by U.S. military intelligence in Iraq, a Directorate of National Intelligence official said.

In short, it seems that FBI director Comey is absolutely serious about their inability to thoroughly and accurately vet everyone claiming to be a refugee.

And that’s sad, in such a humanitarian crisis. Unfortunately, with it being a war torn region with dangerous enemies who want to kill us, we cannot simply let everyone in who claims to be something. As shown with the case of the terrorists in Kentucky who posed as refugees, terrorists are exploiting refugee programs.

This is why, as Peter Steele noted, the Governor is concerned. This is why Congressman Poliquin is concerned. This is why myself, along with many Mainers and Americans in the other 49 are concerned. While our heart breaks for the tragic loss of life and the continued strife abroad, we must maintain a level of security at home.

We must not allow emotional impulses override the need to view a serious situation with objective logic.

Chris Dixon

About Chris Dixon

Chris Dixon is a libertarian-leaning writer. In addition to writing "Undercover Porcupine", he is also the Managing Editor for The Liberty Conservative and writes for Cleat Geeks and Medium.