Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, following the lead of running mate Donald Trump, deliberately misled viewers of Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate about the risks of U.S. acceptance of Syrian refugees.
Pence has staunchly opposed welcoming refugees from war-torn Syria to Indiana, where he is governor, and Trump has said he would ban all Muslim immigrants ― not just those from Muslim-majority Syria ― from entering the country.
It remains doubtful whether there’s any basis for these positions, other than prejudice against the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that Pence’s policy in Indiana discriminates against Syrians.
“The governor of Indiana believes, though without evidence, that some of these persons were sent to Syria by ISIS to engage in terrorism and now wish to infiltrate the United States in order to commit terrorist acts here,” U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner wrote in the appeals panel’s unanimous decision. “No evidence of this belief has been presented, however; it is nightmare speculation.”
Asked about his policy by debate moderator Elaine Quijano, Pence pointed to terror plots in Europe that have been linked to the flow of migrants there from Syria.
As long as there’s a risk that accepting refugees to the U.S. will lead to attacks like the one in Paris last November, Pence argued, he and Trump will stand by their statements.
Pence didn’t acknowledge that refugees had no role in the Paris attacks. He also was unclear on whether the policies he’s backing include Trump’s Muslim ban, which the governor tried to deny from the debate stage, even though it remained on the Trump campaign website Tuesday night.
What is clear, however, is that it’s deceptive to say that allowing refugees into the U.S. poses the same risks as permitting them into Europe. The U.S. has a refugee screening process significantly more stringent and lengthy than those across the Atlantic. That’s one reason the Obama administration has struggled to meet its own promises to help share the refugee burden, and why experts say it is highly unlikely that ISIS terrorists would try to use the refugee route to enter the U.S.
That means citing recent terror in Europe ― most of which is connected to alienated European citizens who become radicalized rather than refugees ― is a scare tactic rather than a justification for a discriminatory policy.