Secure America

Secure America

by

Howard Adelman

This morning I received the following email:

Secure America

by

Howard Adelman

Howard —

Today is Election Day! This is a critical election and we need every single American to do their part.

Hillary Clinton is a danger to Americans. Go to the polls today and stop Clinton from implementing her dangerous policies by voting against her. Hillary plans to increase the number of unscreened refugees in the U.S. by at least 550%, directly endangering our communities. Through her role in the murder of Americans in Benghazi and her support of Obama’s disastrous Iran nuclear deal, she has demonstrated her terrible judgement over and over again.
Point blank, we cannot let Hillary Clinton become the President of the United States.

America is at a crossroads and this election will have huge ramifications upon our national security. With so much at stake for the future of our nation, you simply cannot afford to stay home. Your vote will help to restore our national security and protect Americans across the country.

Do you know where to vote today? Click here to find your polling location: http://vote.secureamericanow.org/

Get out and vote today!
Thank you for your loyal support,
Secure America Now

Quite aside from the fact that the organization did not know that I am not an American and am not eligible to vote in an American election, and setting aside the vilification of Hillary Clinton, this short email makes a number of simple factual errors. The organization is accurate in several respects – today is election day in America. It is accurate also in asserting that “America is at a crossroads.” Sometimes, making such an assertion is merely rhetoric, but I believe it is demonstrably true today.

The email stresses the two core themes raising fears among Americans:
1. The fear of terrorism and of Syrian refugees;
2. The Iran nuclear deal is a direct threat to the U.S.

Secure America asserts, “National security is the most important issue this cycle. Hillary Clinton endangers the security of Americans with her support of the Iran nuclear deal and admitting Syrian refugees.”

On Syrian Refugees

One year ago, following the terrorist attack in Paris, Hillary Clinton weighed in on the refugee issue in a city not particularly pro-refugee – Dallas. America had a target of 13,000 Syrian refugees last year. Hillary argued that closing the door to refugees fleeing Syria would “undermine who we are as Americans. “We always welcomed immigrants and refugees. We have made people feel that is they did their part, they sent their kids to school, they worked hard, there would be a place for them in America.” She added that those seeking refuge must be carefully vetted by “our defense and intelligence professionals.”

So the email is blatantly incorrect that Hillary Clinton proposed allowing the entry of unvetted Syrian refugees. She never did. She never has. And she never will. For even the strongest bleeding heart for refugees does not recommend an unvetted process. As for numbers, Hillary did support a 550% increase in the intake, from 10,000 to 65,000, just about the same number Canada will take this year with a population one-tenth of America’s. A 550% increase seems enormous, but not if you start with a very low figure. Given traditional ratios, if Canada takes in 50,000 refugees, the U.S. would be expected to take in 500,000. But given the temper of the times in America, it is hard to imagine America getting back anytime soon to being a large haven for the oppressed in the world.

The fear mongering about Syrian refugees, other than telling an outright lie about vetting, ignores a number of facts:
1. Syrian refugees include Yazidis and other Christians who are being and have been systematically religiously cleansed from the Middle East;
2. If you are a terrorist, the refugee route is one of the poorest routes through which to gain entry into the United States or Canada since you become so well documented. Arriving as a student, as a visitor, as a business person, are all far easier routes into the country;
3. 70% of Syrian refugees are women and children;
4. The vast majority of terrorist acts committed by terrorists – and there have not been that many given the huge threat from them – has come from radicalized young Muslims who grew up in Canada or the United States; they are homegrown influenced, by the ideology of Al Qaida and ISIS.
5. Syria thus far has been a magnet for extremists far more than a producer of terrorists for export. This may change with the imminent defeat of ISIS.
6. The Harper government, far from being pro-Syrian refugees, was very suspicious of Syrian refugees, but still authorized Canada to adopt the same absolute target as the U.S. in the Obama administration. [In its 2013 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada, published by Public Safety Canada, there is no suggestion that refugees from Syria currently pose any threat.]

The Iran Nuclear Deal

This is a subject on which I have written extensively and a quick survey of the SAN site indicates that it is another area with enormous misinformation.
Note the source of the missive I received – Secure America Now (SAN). SAN claims to be non-partisan, but seems clearly linked to the Alt-Right and headlined by hard-line ideological Republicans such as John Bolton. It was established by two pollsters, John McLaughlin and Pat Caddell, in 2011. It is one of the major sources of non-scientific “push-polls” that Donald Trump frequently cites to show he is on a winning track.

SAN has pushed petitions that are strong on rhetoric and very weak in providing information that urge the U.S. government to “lead a multi-faceted campaign to stop Iran” and “to send a powerful message to the world that America is strong and will not tolerate illegal aliens infiltrating our land.” The organization is alarmist and demonstrates little concern with accuracy. For example, while urging support for the American intelligence and military service arms of the U.S. government, SAN ignores the simple fact that those same communities, whatever hesitations or qualms they might have about the nuclear deal, contrary to SAN claims, agree that Iran’ nuclear program is NOW not geared to nuclear weapons production. SAN’s videos are also replete with geographical errors, errors about dates, and questionable maps about Iran’s nuclear sites. If you wonder where Donald Trump’s vision of restoring water boarding and other even worse torturing techniques, that even the conservative U.S. Supreme Court insists are contrary to the American constitution, look at this site. Further, its “information” data base looks even worse than Donald Trump’s mendacity, if that is possible.

“Push polls” spread politically driven talking points under the guise of gauging public opinion, They are the same types of polls that the National Citizens Coalition in Canada used to raise fears in 1979 that the Vietnamese refugees arriving in Canada would each bring an additional 16 relatives – for some of us, not a fear at all – but it played on a deeper “yellow peril” fear that once ran through Canada. However, while the National Citizens polls mislead with leading questions, they did not distort, as SAN polls seem to do, by cherry picking those to be interviewed or respond. One SAN poll claimed to show that Americans viewed Iran as a top security threat when independent scientific polls show no such thing.
The oldest trick in the American political playbook is to play up America fears. JFK did it in his race against Nixon in 1960 – “the myth of the “missile gap”. SAN is part of that tradition.

This is what SAN has to say. “Secure America Now will work with like-minded groups to help our elected officials to make the right policy decisions on a wide range of security issues. For too long and too much the threats to our security have been downplayed or even ignored in our political discourse. Secure America Now exists to make sure our security concerns are no longer ignored. Secure America Now will challenge political correctness that often leads to avoidable security situations such as the Fort Hood massacre committed by Major Hassan. Secure America Now will expose and promote action when governmental policies fail to effectively address direct threats to our national security such as the nuclear program of Iran, the rise of China’s military challenge, and growing lawlessness in our society. For too long national security policy has been made by politicians in a vacuum. These issues are too important to be left to the politicians. The American people should be heard on these issues that impact all our lives.”

Scaremongering along the lines of Trump lying! Just two more from the above list. One is the alleged “growing lawlessness in our society.” If the reference is to ordinary crime, crime rates have declined steadily. If the reference is to the lawlessness of torture or to urging people at rallies to take protesters out, then the point is self-referential and not at all about society as a whole. On the issue of Dr. Nidal Hasan (not Hassan), a major and a psychiatrist in the Army, Hasan shot 13 people and wounded 32 others seven years ago. He was convicted and awaits execution. The FBI, the DOD, and the Senate all conducted thorough investigations and all concluded the same thing: “Investigators in the FBI and U.S. Army determined that Hasan acted alone and they have found no evidence of links to terrorist groups.” He would describe his colleagues as anti-American. On the other hand, he was a devout Muslim who examined terrorist sites and was upset by what he heard from the soldiers he was treating about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is more information that is readily available, but there is no suggestion of any connections with refugees let alone Syrian refugees.

The SAN missive alone is sufficient to make sure one does not vote for Trump.

Ten Reasons Why I Will NOT vote for Bernie Sanders; Part II – Reason 4: Population Movements

Ten Reasons Why I Will NOT vote for Bernie Sanders

Part II – Reason 4: Population Movements

by

Howard Adelman

The right of people to move and to be able to find a safe and secure place to live on this globe, while, at the same time, preserving the nation-state system where the state assumes the responsibility for the safety and security of its own citizens, has been a predominant philosophical interest of my academic career. So it should be no surprise that my ear has been most highly attuned to issues of population movements for employment, immigration and refugees. The issue has not been a marquee issue for the Democrats as it has been for the Republicans; it was not raised as an issue in Thursday night’s debate in Brooklyn.

However, in the Democratic primary in Florida over a month ago, the most moving moment in any of the debates took place when a Guatemalan mother of five,  , stood up and, in Spanish, expressed her great pain (dolor), and asked both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders what they would do to reunite her and her five children with her husband who had been deported three years ago as an “illegal” alien. “I have a great pain, me and my children, because the father of my children was deported. What will you do to stop deportations and reunite families?”

If that appeal was moving, what touched the audience at least as much was the effort of the Univision reporter, Enrique Acevedo, to tenderly whisper the translation of both Hillary’s and Bernie’s responses into Lucía’s ear as the two candidates answered her question. Both candidates pledged to change America’s policies on deportation. 4.5 million U.S. citizen children live in families in which one parent is an undocumented immigrant. Over 5,000 American children live in foster care because both parents have been detained or deported. Both candidates vowed not to deport undocumented migrants who had no criminal records. The most interesting part of their answers was not their pledges to reunite divided families, but what they said in addition and how they said it.

Hillary Clinton expressed empathy. “Please know how brave I think you are coming here with your children to tell your story. This is an incredible act of courage that I’m not sure many people really understand.” Bernie erred in saying that, “your children [who were sitting in the row beside her] deserve to be with their mother.” But it was the father who had been deported. Hillary was personal; Bernie was not only formulaic, but he let us know that he was not a good listener. Much more importantly, I never heard a journalist challenge Bernie’s advocacy of economic nationalism and the protection of the jobs of American workers with his pledge not to divide the families of undocumented immigrants. Further, if the minimum wage were to be raised to $15, would this serve as a magnet for the in-migration of more undocumented aliens or would such a change deter the propensity of employers to hire undocumented immigrants because there would be more American-born citizens willing to take such jobs?

There is not a great deal of evidence for the latter, though raising the minimum wage is critical for egalitarian and social justice reforms much more than any impact on immigration. The most important impact would be on low income American women. Therefore, before we deal with the impact of raising the minimum wage on immigration, let’s deal more generally with the impact of a raise in the minimum wage that has been such a critical part of the Democratic Party platform, but particularly that of Bernie’s. According to one calculation, if the minimum wage were raised to 1968 levels, it would double to an average of $19.50 not $9.50. So as large as Bernie’s proposal is in the American egalitarian wilderness, it is still a relatively very modest proposal, but not nearly as miniscule as President Obama’s plan, facing an obstreperous Republican dominated Congress, to raise the minimum wage mandated by the federal government from $7.50 to $9. The difference between Bernie and Hillary (as well as Governor Cuomo in New York State and various Democratic mayors, like the mayor of Seattle) is that they propose to phase the increase in over 2-3 years to allow employers to adjust.

Even the increase to $9 might eliminate jobs for American workers that Bernie has pledged to protect. But the losses would be minimal. Dale Belman and Paul J. Wolfson in their comprehensive study of other studies concluded that moderate increases have “little or no effect on employment and hours.” Alan Krueger of Princeton, in comparing New Jersey’s modest minimum wage increase with Pennsylvania’s non-increase, showed that the cost of the increase is passed onto consumers. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, raising the minimum wage to $9 was expected to eliminate 100,000 jobs, but an estimated 7.6 million low-wage workers would see a boost in their weekly earnings. Raising it to $10 would lead to a reduction of 500,000 jobs, but 16.5 million low-wage workers would realize substantial income gains. The higher you go in the increase, the larger the number of Americans that benefit, and the greater the possibility that more jobs are eliminated.

That is the trade-off. I personally support that trade-off for a number of reasons, all independent of any impact on immigration. But a $15 minimum wage almost certainly would mean the elimination of a large number of jobs. For example, in Seattle the first significant casualty of the increase in the minimum wage to $15 resulted from the relocation of a camping equipment manufacturer, Cascade Designs, to Nevada, ostensibly because the minimum wage was raised to $15. However, I believe, such an increase would create possibly even more jobs by raising the monies available to low income earners for expenditures, especially because of the ripple effect of an increased minimum wage. The biggest burden would be borne by the young, mostly in the fast food industry, but, if complemented by free tertiary education tuition, this impact would be partially offset. Would raising the minimum wage affect migration patterns, my major concern?

The United States lacks an investment economic incentive for immigration, though partially offset by other mechanisms. The approximately just over a million migrants a year who receive green cards are divided into four major categories. I offer very rough averages for each category:

  1. Employment (divided roughly in half between students or individuals employed applying to adjust their status and their other family members, about 20% in each sub-category);
  2. Direct Family Reunification via family sponsorship (the majority);
  3. Diversity Lottery Migrants (55,000) (about 5%)
  4. Refugees (just over 5%).

Two of my children fell into the first category as professors at American post-secondary institutions who had their status converted under an employment-preference visa. A third received a green card from within the tiny category, not included above, of what is – believe it or not – called “extraordinary aliens.” She is an artist. So half my children are Americans, but none arrived as refugees, under the DLM program, or under the family reunification program.

Family-based green-card holders include both immediate relatives (spouses, children under 21 years-of-age, and parents of U.S. citizens), representing 44% on average of those who acquire Green Cards in category 2 above and half of the first category (about 21% of the total) who accompany those who acquire citizenship out of employment considerations. The two categories taken together take up, on average, about two-thirds of those who acquire Green Cards. This is a much higher percentage than in Canada, but it is not a major issue in general or in the differences between Hillary and Bernie.

The third category, the Green Card Diversity Visa Lottery (DVL), allows for 55,000 visas to be distributed by lottery to about 8 to 10 million applicants. (The numbers jumped by about 20% in 2014 when applications from Uzbekistan, Nigeria, and Iran increased enormously.) Applicants have to have high school completion or equivalent work experience to apply with their families and must come from countries underrepresented in the immigrant pool immigrating to the U.S. (Canada, for example, does not qualify.) The quota is divided among six geographic regions—Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South/Central America and the Caribbean. No single country can receive more than 7% of available DVL slots in one year.

Bernie’s proposal to eliminate this class about a decade ago specified 50,000 because his proposal left out the 5,000 specifically assigned to applicants under the 1997 Nicaraguan and Central America Relief Act (NACARA). Bernie voted for the Goodlatte Amendment to eliminate the diversity visa lottery (DVL). Bernie was in the Senate in the Fall of 2012 when the House of Representatives voted in favour of Texan Republican Rep. Lamar Smith’s STEM Bill to replace the DVL with openings for 55,000 highly educated workers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Why did Bernie want to eliminate this category, a political position so much in concert with Republican proposed changes to immigration? The reasons for opposing DVL include its susceptibility to fraud since applications are free and take place via internet; intermediaries can file applications on behalf of others and then collect money if that applicant is selected. Secondly, many more places are needed for the highly educated and skilled. Third, since the applicants selected do not receive intelligence checks before they are selected (though they do after), the program is viewed as more open to abuse by potential terrorists. It is not, but in 2002, the wife of an Egyptian terrorist got her visa through the DVL; her husband shot and killed two people in the LA airport.

As far as I can tell, none of these three reasons motivated Bernie to oppose DVL. In any case, the Government Accountability Office in 2007 concluded that it “found no documented evidence that DVL immigrants from these, or other, countries posed a terrorist or other threat.” However, the DVL program was designed to offer access for those people with lesser skills who were also needed to fulfill certain jobs in America. Bernie thought those jobs should be offered to Americans. Bernie also offered a fifth reason; DVL was inherently discriminatory since it was not based on favouring groups discriminated against, but on countries with low demand for immigration vises.

Bernie’s position on immigration is inconsistent. On the one hand he argues against the immigration of low-skilled workers to protect American jobs. On the other hand, he supports family reunification programs, amnesties, opposes enhanced deportation programs, insists he would close detention centres, argues for offering illegal aliens driver’s licenses and health care, and votes against bills to enhance security on the Mexican border. On the one hand, he has argued that Latin American children who sneak into the U.S. should not be “sent back.” He has insisted that, “America has always been a haven for the oppressed. Is there any group more vulnerable than children? We cannot and must not shirk the historic role of the United States as a protector of vulnerable people fleeing persecution.”

Are all irregular migrants refugees? Bernie has a bleeding heart, but not the acute rational skills to deal with inconsistencies. And he is often confused in areas which he should have mastered. In January 2016, Bernie sent a letter to President Obama asking that he end the deportation raids. Illegal aliens should be offered temporary protected status permitting them to work in the U.S. Why temporary “protected” status, a refugee category? “It is critical to acknowledge that most of this [sic] families are refugees seeking asylum and entitled to humanitarian protection and legal counsel,” Most are not refugees according to Bernie. There is no evidence that they are.

In 2013, Cuba (22 percent) was the largest source country for refugee and asylee conversions to green cards. Of 75,000 (not ten million) people who arrive in America and claim refugee status on average each year, about 60% succeed, though in some years, the numbers jump considerably and the average is about 60,000. In contrast, Canada will bring in about 50,000 Syrian refugees alone for resettlement, and the number of successful asylum claims will be about 12,000, 20% rather than the proportionate 10% of the American total. America is no longer the major refugee receiving country it once was.  Last year, the U.S. took in just over 2,000 Syrian refugees.

At the time of the ISIS attack in Paris in November of 2015 when the Liberals replaced the Conservative Party as the governing political group in Canada and the previous miserly approach to refugees was set aside, American jurisdictions, dominated by Republicans, increased the obstacles to the arrival of Syrian refugees whether in Congress or half the Governors who were Republicans. They argued that Syrian refugees pose too great a risk to national security. Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey and then still a candidate to be the Republican flag carrier in the presidential elections, vowed that his state would not take in any refugees – “not even orphans under the age of five”. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal directed the state police to “track” Syrian refugees in his state. Although Obama vowed to veto any anti-Syrian refugee legislation and condemned the anti-refugee hysteria, he did not offer a significant number of resettlement slots for Syrian refugees.

Hillary Clinton endorsed taking in Syrian refugees and argued that we cannot allow “terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and humanitarian obligations.” She stressed the need for careful vetting and the need to be vigilant in screening refugees from Syria. Bernie Sanders concurred, but went further and joined Obama in denouncing the demagoguery and fear-mongering and supported his plan to increase the Syrian refugee intake to 10,000. But Hillary went further still and proposed resettling 65,000 instead of just 10,000 Syrian refugees. This past weekend, when Pope Francis visited Lesbos and personally sponsored three Syrian refugee families, and when Bernie paid his visit to Pope Francis, Bernie said nothing about the Syrian refugees that I could find in any reports. When I listened to the number of interviews in which Bernie answered questions about refugees, he tended to use the crisis to prove he was correct on his opposition to the Iraq War, to stress the need to increase humanitarian aid, to berate the Gulf states for their failure to step up to the plate, denounced bigotry, but has not proposed increasing the refugee intake beyond 10,000. On this point he has been consistent with being an economic nationalist on immigration.

The big issue in the United States, however, has been the large number of undocumented migrants living in the United States estimated to be ten million. Both Hillary and Bernie would offer a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in America and stop deportation of those without criminal records. Both would eliminate most detention centres. Both would make medical insurance available to the undocumented through the Affordable Care Act.

However, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the ardent pro-life Sen. Ted Cruz supporter, said in reference to Bernie Sanders that, “part of his immigration policy is something that I agree with” though, as a climate change denier and on other issues, he is totally at odds with Bernie. Bernie has argued that guest workers in the United States depress wages and take jobs that Americans would take if the wages were higher. The issue is not Bernie’s support for undocumented workers in divided families, but his ability to square the circle. On the one hand, he opposed the comprehensive immigration reform act of 2007 because, as part of the bill, 200,000 guest workers would be permitted to stay for two years on temporary visas. On the other hand, anti-immigration groups give him and F on immigration policy.

Can his various positions be reconciled? Let’s try. Raise the minimum wage to $15 making guest workers unnecessary. Treat with compassion those who are already here. Exclude new guest workers and undocumented migrants. Welcome refugees, but not too many lest that lead to lower pay to American workers. The only problem is that no perfect immigration policy is possible. Our explorations in Canada concluded, much to our surprise because we opposed guest worker programs, was that without guest workers, even if the minimum wage is increased significantly, and it is already significantly higher in Canada than in the U.S., some businesses could not survive without guest workers. We proposed replacing guest workers with refugees since, other than seasonal workers, entrants into regular employment in Canada should also be on a path to citizenship. Though clearly a humanitarian, Bernie has come nowhere near to offering such an innovative program. His main concern is American workers, not refugee protection.

If you oppose guest workers on grounds of increased competition for Canadian workers, then it follows you should oppose refugees. Bernie does not. Further, Bernie stands strongly for family reunification, but almost all studies show that if you enhance family reunification immigration programs, you either cut into current immigration allocations for economically needed immigrants, or, alternatively, you put pressure on increasing the totals permitted to enter which in turn creates even larger pressures for family reunification. Bernie’s votes on immigration are idiosyncratic as indicated by his 2005 support for an amendment to immigration law eliminating the availability of 50,000 permanent resident visas annually for people from countries with low immigration to the United States discussed above.

The reality is that there are irresolvable tensions among different magnets – the desire for needed guest workers, for immigrants with needed skills, for investor immigrants all in tension with the desire for family reunification and the need to enhance resettlement of refugees for humanitarian reasons. So, on immigration policy, you do not aspire to achieve an ideal policy since none is possible. You instead need a policy based on a number of compromises and attempts at reconciliation. Satisfying all demands, and they are legitimate, is impossible. So legislation must seek to forge a compromise quite apart from the troglodytes who populate the American Congress. Bernie’s problem is not that he is not for all the right things, but that he focuses on one issue without acknowledging the necessity of reasonable compromise. Sanders did ultimately vote for the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform legislation while still opposing guest worker programs for low-skilled workers, claiming this as a major reason for keeping workers’ wages depressed. But would he admit that the entry of refugees could create the same pressures?

My problem with Bernie is not his heart but the inconsistencies in his mind and that his economic nationalism trumps enlightened refugee resettlement policies. He is very gutsy rhetorically, but the rhetoric is not backed by practical action when it comes to refugees, among other issues.

Canadian Conservative Refugee Policy

The Baby Killer?

by

Howard Adelman

Yesterday, I discussed Chris Alexander’s after-the-election defence of Bill C-24 and, in particular, the issue of two classes of citizenship. Today I want to concentrate on his defence of his role as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in the Harper government in the formation of its Syrian refugee policy. In the seven minute and forty second interview, most of the time he discussed refugee policy rather than the citizenship issue. Let me offer his interview in as verbatim form as I could manage, and then follow up with my commentary after parsing what he said.

According to Chris Alexander, “We started bringing Syrian refugees to Canada on a large scale in January, but nobody covered it at the time. Somehow it became divisive that we hadn’t brought them all by the middle of the election campaign.”

“This conflict in Syria has been going on for four years and I will say in front of any camera to any journalist that this is the worst conflict of recent times, much worse in terms of loss of life than both Iraq wars, all three Iraq wars if you count the current one, much worse than Afghanistan during our time there in terms of loss of life, and the media coverage, the public attention to it, has been lacking since 2011.”

3. “These are the biggest terrorist organizations in the world. Yes, the international response has been weak because there is no appetite for it after two wars in Iraq and a long campaign in Afghanistan, but we need to pay attention.”

4. “And when these refugees and migrants showed up in Europe in massive numbers, it wasn’t a surprise to me. We have been tracking this, we have been trying to respond, we have been trying to encourage other countries to respond in an organized way resettling larger numbers of refugees to save lives and to ensure that people didn’t have to cross the Mediterranean and lose their lives at great risk.”

5. “But none of that generated any profile. Instead I still get people coming up to me saying you hung up on Carol Off. That’s the story that people insist on telling, that we are cold-hearted Conservatives, that we have never done the right thing.”

6. “And it’s wrong. And you’ve got to look at the facts. You’ve got to look at who showed leadership.”

7. “There are still more Syrian refugees in this country than Barak Obama has brought to the United States. Has anyone covered that fact?”

8. “It’s a question of communication and responding to accusations, absolutely… Certain messages weren’t delivered and certain accusations were allowed to stand.”

9. “We’re still the party that sees reality as it is, doesn’t want to go on some hippy-trippy jaunt down memory lane and put marihuana in the windows of every store. We’re trying to deal with the real issues that Canadians are facing.”

10. “I’ve heard the Liberal leader say that we should not use the word ‘terrorism’ on several occasions. They are just misunderstood people.”

11. “And it pains me as a person who spent six years on behalf of Canada and the United Nations in Afghanistan and who worked two years as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to try to get a better response to Syrian refugees to bring 23,000 Iraqi refugees to Canada. I have never seen one article written about that in this country.”

12. “Cost, safety, operational standards for which Canada is renowned are all issues. We have the best record in the world for refugee resettlement because we do it well, we meet certain standards. We check out who people are. We make sure that human smugglers aren’t involved. We make sure identity theft isn’t involved. We make sure people are whom they say they are. We make sure that criminals don’t benefit from Canada’s generous refugee policies and when you start moving large numbers of people in short periods of time, all of that can be compromised. So I would urge the government to do more on Syria but do it carefully and ensure that Canada’s best traditions and high standards are respected.”

a) Did the Conservatives start bringing Syrian refugees to Canada on a large scale in January?

  1. b) Did they receive no coverage of their activities on behalf of Syrian refugees?
  2. c) Did the issue only become divisive during the election campaign?
  3. d) And was that because the Conservatives had not brought all the refugees to Canada by the middle of the election campaign?

In 2013, Canada pledged to take in 1,300 Syrian refugees over the next twelve months. It took the government 20 months, virtually to the end of 2014. The government promised to bring in only 200 government-sponsored refugees and 1,100 sponsored privately by groups or individuals. However, given the deficiency of visa officers in the field and processing officers in Winnipeg, private sponsorships were taking 12 or more months. In the first eight months of 2013, only 9 Syrian refugees were resettled in Canada. Under pressure from the NDP immigration critic, Alexander kept obfuscating on the number of arrivals, and his inadequate replies received wide coverage.

By mid-2015, Alexander could only confirm that there were 1,297 Syrian refugees physically present in Canada as of July 2 even though 1,012 Syrian refugees made inland claims and were not resettled but arrived here and claimed asylum. Though the pledge to bring in 10,000 Syrian refugees over three years was signalled in January 2015, only in the beginning of July of 2015 did Canada announce that it was preparing to substantially increase the number of Syrian refugees this country will accept. The Conservatives planned to bring 10,000 more Syrian refugees over three years, or 3,300 per year. Most of those were expected to be privately sponsored. “To meet those kinds of targets,” Mr. Alexander said, “Ottawa is looking to a broader range of Canadians to step up and privately sponsor asylum seekers.” That announcement was widely covered in the media, but it was an announcement about an announcement, for the formal announcement was not expected to come until late summer or the fall.

The initiative was said to be on a par with “one of our large, national efforts in response to a serious crisis on par with our response to the Vietnamese boat people [60,000 over 18 months when the number of refugees was less than half those from Syria], Idi Amin in Uganda in 1972 [7,000 of the accounted for approximately 43,000 Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin] and the 1956 crackdown in Hungary [37,000 of 200,000 refugees over only six months].” How 3,300 per year of 4 million refugees could be said to be on a par with the numbers Canada took in these other movements is beyond comprehension.

The issue did not become a big one until the picture of the little three-year-old’s body on the beach appeared in all the media around the world at the end of the first week in October, but no one, absolutely no one, criticized the Conservatives for not having brought all the refugees to Canada by the middle of the election campaign. The Conservatives were criticized for the stinginess of their Syrian refugee policy.

2. Chris Alexander did say a number of times that the Syrian conflict was the worst in the last few decades. But to say that the media did not cover the conflict is absolute nonsense. Amelia Smith in her study, “Mapping Syria through media coverage of the conflict,” indicated a number of problems covering the story. Though in 2011, Western media dedicated “a healthy amount of coverage” to Syria’s conflict, and though the new media were used extensively, in the last two years, there has been extensive coverage, contrary to Alexander’s assertion. However, there has been a distinct tendency to reduce the conflict to a battle between ISIS and the Assad regime. Further, there has been too little coverage of the international humanitarian work and of the tremendous refugee burden that Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have born. But all have been covered. However, the most serious problem is the high risk to journalists. Syria has been designated as the most dangerous country for journalists in 2012, 2013, and 2014, somewhat limiting the amount of coverage.

3. Alexander claimed that al-Qaeda and ISIS are the biggest terrorist organizations in the world. There are well over 100 terrorist organizations. Hezbollah and Hamas are each larger than ISIS or al-Qaeda. The Taliban may be larger. ISIS may, however, be the most notorious. In any case, the Assad regime has killed many more Syrian civilians than even ISIS.

4. To say that Canada has been a leader in encouraging Syrian refugee resettlement is laughable if it were not so tragic. In terms of witnessing, Canada has settled at most 13,000 refugees worldwide each year over the last three years. Excepting years when we resettled disproportionately high numbers of refugees, Canada generally took 10% of the refugees scheduled by UNHCR for resettlement. The United States takes by far the most. Of the 21,154 Syrian refugees put forward by UNHCR for resettlement in 2014, Canada took barely 1,000 or less than 5%, an appalling figure in comparison to our past historical record. The UNHCR urged countries to resettle only 100,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 and 2016. Canada’s response – not 10,000 per year as would be expected from past practice, but 10,000 over three years. There is no evidence that Canada provided any leadership in advocating higher refugee numbers; practice indicates quite the reverse.

5. No one said that the Conservatives were cold hearted or never did the right thing. The Conservatives were accused of a woefully inadequate response to refugee resettlement though a reasonably humanitarian response to donations overseas re Syrian refugees. Further, late in the game, the Conservatives were commended for finally waving the requirement of UNHCR approval for refugees scheduled for resettlement, of waving the requirement that all forms by private sponsors had to be precisely accurate before they could be considered, for finally greatly increasing the number of visa officers in Lebanon and increasing the processing officers in Winnipeg. But it was all very tardy and seemed to be only a response to enormous pressure.

6. “You’ve got to look at the facts. You’ve got to look at who showed leadership.” If you do, you would have to conclude that it was definitely not the Conservatives.

7. Alexander asserted that Canada took in far more Syrian refugees than Obama ever did. While I think the Obama record on Syrian refugees has been appalling, and by September 2015, the U.S. had only resettled about 1,500 Syrian refugees in total, fewer than Canada, in December 2014, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, Anne Richard, announced that the United States would resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2015. As of 7 October 2015, 19,646 Syrian refugee names had been submitted to the U.S. for resettlement. So although the United States had been very tardy, and though its current response has been very inadequate, it is just not true that Canada took many more Syrian refugees than the U.S. We took more, but not even considerably more let alone many more.

8. Alexander insisted that the problem was inadequate communication on the part of the Conservatives. The problem was inadequate and very tardy response by the Conservatives.

9. “We’re still the party that sees reality as it is, doesn’t want to go on some hippy-trippy jaunt down memory lane and put marihuana in the windows of every store.” In every store window!!! Come on! If Alexander is representative, he not only indicates that the Conservatives do not see reality as it is, but cannot distinguish fact from fiction.

10. Alexander insisted that Justin Trudeau would not use the term ‘terrorism,’ but insisted that the terrorists were just misunderstood people. Perhaps Alexander was not in the House of Commons on 19 February 2015 when Trudeau began his speech as follows: “Mr. Speaker, I do not have to tell anyone in the House today about the threat of terrorism and the fear it can instil within those who have witnessed it. We all remember clearly the feelings we had in October as we heard and learned that an armed man had entered Centre Block with the intent to kill. We are still thankful for the heroism shown by our security services that day in keeping us safe during a difficult and confusing time. Coming as it did only days after another, shameful, attack on members of our military, it was a horrible reminder of the murder in cold blood that some people are capable of committing. No matter the motives, terrorism is designed to make us freeze in fear. It is designed to make us constantly question not only our own safety, but also the democratic institutions we have established to keep us safe. It is designed to make us question what is familiar and to suspect what would normally be insignificant. Terrorism is designed to take us so far that we question everything we have built and everything that is good in our fair, just, and open society. That is the point of terrorism, and it is when we willingly walk over that edge of our own accord that terrorism is ultimately successful.”

Hardly an avoidance of the word “terrorism”.

11. Alexander claimed to never have read one article about the 23,000 Iraqi refugees Canada resettled. Perhaps that is because 23,000 were not resettled. 23,000 was the target by the end of 2015. I guess he had not read on 7 January 2015 the news service reports that sympathetically indicated how the Syrian war hampered Iraqi refugee resettlement, etc. Either Alexander does not look for the reading material, does not read it when he finds it, or cannot read.

12. “Cost, safety, operational standards.” Finally some honesty! These were Alexander’s and the Conservative’s repeated reasons for the tardy and inadequate intake of Syrian refugees. The Conservatives would bring them in, as long as the budget was not burdened. Further, the department of Immigration’s ability to interview, process and resettle those refugee, as well as the ability of settlement agencies and Agreement Holders to perform, had been severely compromised in the effort to balance the budget while lowering taxes.

The next shibboleth was the security issue. But as virtually any scholar knows who has studied the issue, coming to Canada as a refugee is the worst route for a terrorist to seek entry into a country. A refugee is too well documented. Enter as a tourist, as an investor, as a student. The terrorist threat is a red herring when it comes to the admission of refugees. In any case, all the political parties buy into the need for security clearances.

The third factor is the elaborate bureaucratic procedures that now cloud and delay sponsorship under the guise of “operational standards”.

The bottom line: Chris Alexander is a serial exaggerator, a serial distortionist and contortionist, systematically engaging in hyperbole totally unsupported by facts. Canada has not been a “model of humanitarian action.” Far from it. It has been a model of a miserly approach to the Syrian refugee issue.