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We can't let compassion for refugees cloud our judgment, put nation at risk

  • Author: Sen. Dunleavy
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published November 23, 2015

In the wake of a string of terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, Kenya and Egypt, the issue over how to best help refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war, while protecting Americans at home, is being hotly debated. Alaskans are rightly concerned for their own safety as well as for the fate of refugees from the Syrian civil war.

Last week, I called on Gov. Walker and President Obama to put Americans first by putting in place a failsafe system to screen out potential terrorists within the refugee population destined for transit to our shores, and to do everything in their power to ensure the safety and security of our citizens.

The inadequacy of our nation's ability to do background checks on refugees was brought to light by FBI Director James Comey, who recently expressed concern over "gaps" in the data available to the U.S. government as a result of the chaos wrought by the four-year civil war in Syria. This data gap should serve as a red flag to those on all sides of this issue.

I cannot, in good conscience, tell my constituents today that federal authorities will be able to bring in thousands of refugees without risking the lives of American citizens. That is why I support a freeze on the influx of refugees until we are certain that the screening process for potential threats is more than adequate to guarantee our safety. I am not alone in this concern. Five of the richest Arab countries share this same concern and have refused to open their borders to the same refugees. That should be telling to everyone.

We know that the Islamic State is committed to murdering Americans. They have made this perfectly clear. "The American blood is best, and we will taste it soon," several Islamic State-related websites have stated. No one doubts they will try to take advantage of the compassion of the American people by infiltrating the refugee population during the exodus in order to commit heinous acts on our own soil.

The Islamic State is no "JV team," a misjudgment of which President Obama is now daily being reminded. Rather, they are a highly sophisticated group of Islamic terrorists committed to imposing their world-view on others without mercy. They have a history of inflicting a nightmare of rape, slavery, beheadings, and crucifixions on their victims – including women, children and the elderly – all recorded in high definition for the world to see.

Their message is simple: Submit to their world-view or die. They've stretched the limits of the imagination in how to torture and kill people and would love nothing more than to play this out in one of our schools, malls or football stadiums. It should be our government's highest priority to make sure it never happens.

Many have expressed a genuine desire to help the victims of the Syrian civil war, a sentiment that I and others share. What many seem to overlook, however, is that the U.S. is not the only place where these refugees can be fed, clothed, housed and given medical attention. Moreover, it will actually cost 12 times more to resettle refugees in the U.S. than it does to care for those same refugees in neighboring Middle Eastern countries, according to data from the Center for Immigration Studies.

We can fund resettlement programs to meet the needs of these unfortunate victims in neighboring countries, saving taxpayer dollars, while also protecting the American people.

It's these sorts of common-sense solutions that are sorely lacking today in Washington, D.C.

If President Obama continues down the path of dismissing the legitimate concerns of the American people, then I would again urge Gov. Walker to use the full power of his office in carrying out the executive's primary responsibility to protect its citizens from domestic and foreign threats. I ask Gov. Walker to not assist in facilitating this ill-advised plan until we are certain the security of our people can be guaranteed.

We cannot forget history and allow our compassion to cloud our judgment. This part of the world has been the center for some of history's bloodiest wars ending in the destruction of many of the world's greatest civilizations. Let's ensure America doesn't suffer the same fate.

Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, is chair of the Alaska Senate Education Committee and represents District E, which covers the Mat-Su area and Copper River.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email