Rand Paul lashes out at TSA, Iraq refugees

Rand Paul lashes out at TSA, Iraq refugees

Posted By David Kenner  Wednesday, June 8, 2011 – 1:44 PM 
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In remarks at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies on Wednesday morning, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) attacked the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for refusing to profile travelers and pledged to call for hearings on why so many Iraqi refugees are being granted asylum in the United States.
Paul, the founder of the Senate Tea Party Caucus and the author of the Tea Party Goes to Washington, was making a broader point about the impossibility of fixing the country’s dismal fiscal situation without significant cuts to defense spending when he launched into an attack on the TSA. “I think you could just about put the money in a box and burn it and get as much as we’re getting from the TSA,” he said.
The TSA came in for the senator’s ire because of what he described as its unwillingness to profile people based on the likelihood that they represent a terrorist threat. “They say that to be fair to everybody … the 6-year-old girl has to be treated the same as the boy who’s coming from Nigeria whose dad said he was a potential threat, he’d been to Yemen twice, he bought a one-way ticket with cash the day before he left or the day he left,” said Paul, in reference to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, perhaps better known as the “underwear bomber,” who attempted to blow up an airplane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. “Should we treat him the same as the 6-year-old girl? That’s what our policy is right now.”
TSA begs to differ. TSA press secretary Nick Kimball told The Cable that Paul’s account “is not an accurate characterization of current policy.” He said that the agency has developed “a flexible system of aviation security that provides us with the best opportunity currently available to detect and disrupt potential threats.”
TSA affirms on its website that it does not profile passengers based on religious or ethnic grounds, but it is permitted to consider evidence of radicalization or any unusual travel in its screening procedures. In the case of Abdulmutallab, President Barack Obama blamed a “systemic failure” in U.S. national security that allowed him to board a plane despite having been placed in a terrorist database.
On a separate note, Paul also took exception to the number of Iraqi refugees who have been granted asylum in the United States. “There’s a democratic government over there, and I think they need to be staying and helping rebuild their country,” he said. “We don’t need them over here on government welfare.”
“I’m going to try to have hearings on the political asylum: Why are we admitting 18,000 people [per year] for political asylum from Iraq, which is an ally of ours?”
The United States has resettled more than 54,000 Iraqi refugees since 2006 and has given over $2 billion in assistance to displaced Iraqis, according to the State Department. Resettlement is only an option for “the most vulnerable groups of refugees.” The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which determines whether a person qualifies for refugee status and is thereby eligible for resettlement in the United States, has established 11 “priority profiles” of refugees prioritized for resettlement, including women at risk of honor killings, children and adolescents separated from their families, and Iraqis at risk due to their work with U.S. forces or international authorities.
Paul, however, called for basing resettlement on the Iraqis’ ability to find work in the United States. “I kind of believe in the old-fashioned notion as long as you’ve got your job you can stay; if you don’t keep your job you go back home,” he said.
On his broader views toward foreign policy, Paul tried to enunciate a vision that charted a middle way between what he described as indiscriminate interventionism and complete isolationism. “I sometimes like to tell people that I’m really a moderate — for some reason they don’t seem to believe me,” he said. “But what about a foreign policy of moderation? A foreign policy that argues maybe we should be somewhere some of the time … and do so while respecting our Constitution and the legal powers of Congress and the presidency.”
According to Paul, the United States is now leaning too dramatically in the direction of interventionism, most notably with the war in Libya. Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker asked a question that noted Iraq’s progress toward establishing democratic institutions and inquired about his views about whether U.S. foreign policy should also promote its values. “Well, you know war with China — we could maybe try to get them to have a constitution just like Iraq. Is anyone here in favor of war with China? No.”
My response:
June 9, 2011
Senator Rand Paul
208 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
 
Dear Senator Paul:
 
In your recent remarks at Johns Hopkins University, it is reported you asked why Iraqi refugees are receiving asylum in the United States.  In particular, you were quoted as asking, “Why are we admitting 18,000 people for political asylum from Iraq, which is an ally of ours?”[1]  As Executive Director of the Chaldean Federation of America, I hope the information provided below will shed light on the urgent humanitarian situation facing Iraq’s religious minorities. 
Religious minorities in Iraq suffer targeted and persistent violence and harassment that has placed our communities on the verge of extinction.  The persecution of religious minorities became symptomatic following the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, after which Islamic terrorists brutally pursued an Iraq that did not allow for religious diversity and sought to punish those who collaborated with the United States.  Many Christians worked with the coalition efforts and, as a result, were threatened and killed for supporting the United States.  Many more have been threatened or killed simply for practicing their religion.  Since 2004, at least sixty-six churches have been attacked.[2]  As recently as October 2010, fifty-eight people, including two priests, were murdered in an attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic Church in Baghdad during evening mass. 
As a consequence, the Christians of Iraq – Chaldeans, Assyrians, and Syriacs whose roots in Iraq pre-date the Bible – have seen our population diminish from 1.2 million before the 2003 war to less than 600,000 today.  Iraqi Christians, who previously made up approximately 4 percent of Iraq’s population, today account for approximately 20 percent of Iraq’s refugees, a direct result of continued threats, kidnappings, murders, and intimidation. 
Iraq’s other religious minorities along with Muslims who candidly welcomed the democratic process, have tragically suffered a similar fate.  An estimated 90 percent of the Sabean Mandaean community has been killed or fled, leaving less than 5,000 Mandaeans in Iraq today.  The ancient Jewish community has ceased to exist. 
It is for these reasons that the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has again named Iraq a Country of Particular Concern in its 2011 report.  USCIRF finds that “systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations” persist and that religious minorities continue to suffer “alarming numbers of religiously-motivated killings, abductions, beatings, rapes, threats, intimidation, forced displacements and conversions, and attacks on religious leaders and holy sites.”[3]  Perpetrators of these attacks are rarely, if ever, identified or prosecuted. 
It is also for these reasons that religious minorities seek asylum in the United States.  Refugees who have fled to neighboring countries, including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, cannot receive permanent status and are prohibited from working or attending school, and are thus unable to support themselves and their families.  They cannot return to Iraq because of the dangers they face.  Third-party countries, including the United States, therefore represent their only option for security and stability.  Moreover, the United States bears a moral responsibility to help those who have been forced from their homes and lost family members under our country’s watch. 
The Chaldean Federation of America firmly believes the United States must address the humanitarian urgency facing Iraq’s religious minorities by working with the Iraqi government to improve security and rule of law, while simultaneously providing refuge for those who cannot return to Iraq.  It is in all our interests to work for a democratic Iraq that respects religious freedom, allows refugees to return safely, and enables religious minority community members to actively participate in Iraqi society.  It is likewise in all our interests to alleviate the suffering of those refugees who have been forced to flee. 
I appreciate the opportunity to write you regarding this important issue.  I welcome the opportunity to speak with you further regarding the persecution of religious minorities in Iraq and steps the United States can take that will allow our people to remain safely in Iraq. 
Sincerely,
Joseph T. Kassab
Executive Director
Chaldean Federation of America
Office (248) 996-8384 Fax (248) 996-8342
Mobile (248) 882-1912
29850 Northwestern Hway., Suite 250
Southfield, MI 48034 www.chaldeanfederation.org

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