In 2015, black people rioted, thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America turned themselves in at our Southern border, the Obama administration signed a nuclear agreement with Iran and the federal government used a military training exercise as a thinly disguised pretext to annex Texas. Goaded on by Fox News and other right-wing media outlets, conservatives dutifully lost their minds over each of these events.
But in selecting the goofiest right-wing freak-out of the year, those stories were merely also-rans. The dumbest panic of 2015, by far, was the months-long hysteria over the prospect of ISIS terrorists posing as Syrian refugees so they can KILL US ALL.
The reason it’s so ridiculous is straightforward: If you were an Evil-Doer who wanted to wreak havoc in the U.S., the most ridiculous way to go about it would be through the Syrian refugee resettlement program. Only the Keystone Cops of international Jihad would choose such a stupid path.
Think about it. Your journey would begin with an indefinite stay in an overcrowded shit-hole of a UN refugee camp in Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon. (Those washing ashore in Greece are not eligible for resettlement to the U.S.) There, you would enjoy a tent or a hovel and minimal humanitarian needs, and you might fester in that camp for so long that you’d forget why you hated the Great Satan in the first place.
But, OK, Jihad requires sacrifices! The next problem is that you’d have no control over where you might go next. The U.S. has committed to resettling around one in 15 refugees, meaning you’re far more likely to end up in Liechtenstein, Romania or Canada than at some soft target in the U.S.
But that isn’t the whole story. Syrian refugees can’t apply for resettlement, they have to be referred. And as Time Magazine reported, the “small percentage” of refugees who are selected for overseas resettlement are chosen according to “criteria designed to determine the most vulnerable cases.” In other words, if you’re a terrorist who isn’t old or sick or a child or a single mother, your likelihood of ending up being resettled in any foreign country is minuscule; according to the State Department, only about one in 50 of those lucky enough to start a new life in the U.S. are unattached “military-aged” males.
If you were to make the cut, you’d then be subject to the most intensive vetting process that anyone entering this country faces. In a process that often takes up to two years, your story – and your documents – would be checked out by officials from the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. I suppose it’s possible that there are terrorists who really love a good challenge, but commonsense suggests that they’d want to maximize their chances of carrying out a successful terror attack, and there’s simply no better way of getting caught and ending up rotting in some third-world prison than posing as a refugee from a high-risk country.
Meanwhile, if you’re an industrious terrorist with the capacity to get your hands on fake papers and create a false identity, tens of thousands of Syrians have entered the U.S. on simple visas. It’s a direct route – there’s no need to wait around for years in a refugee camp – and while visa-holders undergo some security checks, the vetting process isn’t nearly as rigorous as the one for Syrian refugees.
Now, the fact that we’re turning away desperate and highly vulnerable people fleeing a vicious civil war – many of whom are “survivors of torture, victims of sexual violence [or] targets of political persecution,” according to Time – is no laughing matter. But the fear itself certainly is. After all, if we’re going to do battle with terrorists, aren’t we better off facing those who are so dim-witted that they’d try to infiltrate our country in the most ridiculous way possible?