In the days after the attacks in Paris, France that were claimed by The Islamic State, Antiwar.com reports, “there has been a growing backlash against refugees, particularly among US Republicans.”
In addition to the US House passing a bill, largely along party lines, to effectively halt the admittance of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States, leading Presidential candidates seem to be in a competition to see who can take the most draconian position. Donald Trump reiterated his stance that Syrian refugees would “go back” to Syria if he’s elected, and said there should be a database on the people coming from Syria, and according to the Washington Post has “called for heavy surveillance of Syrians, Muslims and anyone with possible ties to the Islamic State.” Though there is no indication of what “possible ties” means, or how it will be interpreted.
Ben Carson then attempted to one up Trump by telling reporters, “I think we should have a database on everybody who comes into this country. Hopefully we already have a database on every citizen who is already here.” Carson added, “If we don’t have a database on every foreigner who comes to this country, we are being negligent.”
Antiwar.com adds, this backlash against refugees “was based largely on rumors, which turned out to be false, of a refugee being among the attack[er]s. Germany’s Interior Minister said he believes a refugee passport was planted at one of the sites as a ‘false flag’ by [The Islamic State] to make things harder for the refugees, and by all indications this is working.”
Carson, Trump, and others are basing their positions on this information that has been proven false. They also seem to ignore the fact that the US Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and also protects the rights of people to practice the religion of their choice; meaning that simply being a Muslim, or a refugee, or from Syrian should not be reason enough to be subject to government surveillance or internment. However, the US Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that it was appropriate and constitutional to strip Americans of Japanese descent of their civil liberties of living in designated coastal area stretching from Washington State to southern Arizona and placed in internment camps.
While speaking to a group of law students at the University of Hawaii in February of last year, Antonin Scalia said, “Well of course Korematsu was wrong, [a]nd I think we have repudiated in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again.”
While none of the Presidential candidates are calling for placing Syrian refugees in internment camps, the Mayor of Roanoke, Virginia, David Bowers did cite Japanese internment as justification for refusing refugees. It’s worth noting in 1988 the United States government formally apologized and paid reparations to former Japanese internees and their heir.
David Bier of the Foundation for Economic Education writes, “During World War II, the United States turned away Jews due to security concerns. We sent shiploads back to the camps because we were scared that Nazi spies could hide in their midst…
The lesson of the Holocaust is that we must deal with threats without rejecting our ethical obligations. We must not send those fleeing persecution back to their persecutors.”
While no one knows what will happen to any refugees who are turned away, either immediately or sent back at a later date; one thing is clear: it is a civil rights violation to subject anyone to government surveillance or internment because of ethnicity or religious beliefs.