Pols use refugees for political points

Let’s call the Muslim refugee issue what it is in the eyes of some Republican presidential candidates: An excuse to practice the politics of fear in order to score political points.

"It makes no sense whatsoever for us to be bringing in refugees who our intelligence cannot determine if they are terrorists here to kill us or not," one candidate said last weekend, after the carnage in Paris. "Those who are fleeing persecution should be resettled in the Middle East in majority Muslim countries."

Another viewpoint: "We have welcomed refugees – the tired, huddled masses – for centuries. That’s been the history of the United States," a candidate said in a Fox News interview last year. "We have to continue to be vigilant to make sure those coming are not affiliated with the terrorists, but we can do that."

Funny thing, but both of those quotes came from Sen. Ted Cruz, whose own parents were refugees from Cuba.

The only difference is that Cruz now thinks he can make hay by preying on people’s fears of terrorism. He’s probably right.

The politics of fear can also be found in the idea – floated in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris – that we should apply a religious litmus test to determine which refugees get admitted to this country. It’s a concept about as antithetical as it gets to what it means to be an American.

Yet, Cruz and Jeb Bush, among others, would keep out Syrian refugees of the Muslim faith because a small fraction of Muslim extremists could be terrorists.

Bush, in fact, suggested that if the U.S. is going to help Syrian refugees, we focus on Christians.

In other words, we’re a country that welcomes huddled masses, but only if they worship God "the right way."

Then there is Donald Trump, who said if he were elected president, he would consider closing some mosques. Substitute the words "church" or "synagogue" for "mosque" and you get an idea where going down that road would take us.

The only real wonder is that the fearmongers among us haven’t yet suggested we round up all Muslims currently in the country and place them in internment camps, as we did to our country’s enduring shame with citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II.

Which is not to say we should disregard our legitimate national security interests.

We think Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Kelly Ayotte – who are running against each other for a seat in the U.S. Senate – struck a reasonable balance between human rights and national security when they suggested that it would be better to put off bringing refugees into the country while we evaluate the integrity of the process we use to vet those seeking asylum within our borders.

That doesn’t say much, we suppose, for the faith our leaders have in the Department of Homeland Security, but that’s another issue. We’re willing to go along with such delays in the very short-term if the result is a process that allows us to be reasonably sure that the refugees who are coming here – regardless of their religious beliefs – will do our country no harm.

If only we could reach the same conclusion about some of those people who are already here and running for president.