Update: November 28, 4:14 pm

Are the Senators and Representatives who are calling for draconian measures that would effectively bar Muslim refugees from the US because of their religion, while doing little or nothing to make America safer from terror attacks, really interested in security, or is their main concern exploiting anti-Muslim feeling for political purposes?

For one view on this subject, see The Guardian: Why Republican front runners get away with harsh anti-Muslim rhetoric (November 28)


Update: November 28, 1:45 pm

Huffington Post reports that, except for Ted Cruz, who offered condolences on Twitter, the Republican presidential candidates have been silent about the Colorado Springs shooting, which has killed three people.

Can anyone imagine what the reaction would have been if the killer suspect had been a Muslim, especially a Syrian Muslim refugee? The storm troops would already be showing up at the homes of America's four million Muslim US citizens and residents to haul them off to the camps, and our ports of entry would be covered with "Christians Only" signs.

It still remains to be seen whether the shooting suspect was influenced in his choice of venue for the terror attack by anti-abortion hysteria spread by the same right wing politicians who are claiming that they will protect America from refugees who are fleeing from, not supporting terror.

Update: November 28, 9:11 am:

My original post of November 27 has been slightly revised in response to comments by Nolan Rappaport, below.

Update: November 27, 7:41 pm (New York time):

As I am watching CNN on live television while writing this, the five-hour standoff between police and a gunman at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood building has just ended with the surrender of the suspect to police. No information is yet available about how many people have been killed or injured, even though at least 11 have been taken to a local hospital. No information is yet available about the suspect, but, judging from the target of the attack, it would be rather surprising, to say the least, if he turns out to be a Muslim refugee.

What a grim reminder that the biggest terror threat in the United States today is not from Muslim refugees or Muslims in general.

I am waiting for Republican Senators such as David Vitter and Jeff Sessions to respond to this latest terrorist even with legislation to prevent future attacks of the gun violence which kills over 10,000 each year with the same alacrity with which they responded to the Paris attacks (which have not as yet been proven to have involved a single Syrian Muslim refugee).

It may be a long wait.

In the meantime, in another horrific incident of ISIS-inspired terrorism against Muslims, Huffington Post reports that an ISIS affiliate in Bangladesh has attacked a Shia mosque in that country, killing one man and wounding three others.


These two incidents do not exactly support the current demagogic narrative that America's biggest danger is from Muslim terrorists, and that Muslim refugees should all be regarded as potential ISIS supporters and barred from the United States on security grounds.

Shiite Muslims, for example, are considered to be apostates by the ISIS fanatics, who are Sunni, and are, if anything, in even more danger from ISIS than non-Muslims. If Congress is seriously interested in protecting against more terrorist attacks, it should address the real problem, rather than seeking to stoke anti-Muslim bigotry for political gain.

My original post follows:

For more than 40 years, from 1924 to 1965, America had an immigration system that was openly based on the proposition that immigrants from a certain part of the world, northern and western Europe, were inherently more desirable than immigrants from elsewhere, especially southern and eastern Europe and the Middle East. Even before 1924, the US had already enacted Asian exclusion laws aimed at drastically reducing or stopping immigration from East Asia and South Asia, as well as providing that Asian immigrants could not become naturalized US citizens.

Is Congress now seeking to exploit panic over the possibility of terror attacks and resentment over job competition from highly educated foreign professional workers to take America back to an immigration system which, in actuality, if not in ideology, would bar or severely limit immigration from East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East?

The above question can be legitimately raised after passage of a House bill immediately after the recent Paris terror attacks which Speaker Paul Ryan has stated was intended to create a "pause" in admissions of Syrian refugees (which are already at a virtual standstill anyway). See,


The above question is even more relevant after introduction of two bills in the Republican-controlled Senate. One of these would put a virtual end to the H-1B visa, now used to a large extent by IT and other professional workers from India and China.

The other GOP bill, introduced, one might surmise, as a last hurrah by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), whose reputation had been damaged by allegations related to prostitution, before his political career ended by his losing the governorship race in his state to a Democrat, would put so many draconian restrictions on admitting Syrian refugees that it would a miracle if a single refugee from the twin horrors of Assad's brutal Russian and Iranian backed terror regime and ISIS' descent into medieval barbarism and cruelty (and I have to apologize to the Middle Ages for using this comparison), ever made it into the United States.

Before looking at these two bills, which are so absurdly and redundantly hostile to their intended targets that one might legitimately ask if they had been drafted by Woody Allen, I will start with a Jewish joke dating from the Holocaust period which, among other things, showed the ability of the Jewish people to laugh at and mock their persecutors even at one of the darkest times in their history.

In the joke, a Nazi storm trooper accosts a Jewish man in the street around 1939 or 1940 and says: "Tell me, who started the war?" The man, fearing for his life, answers: "The Jews". Then he adds: "And the bicycle riders."

The Nazi looks puzzled. He asks: "Why the bicycle riders?" The Jewish man answers: "Why the Jews?"

If today's Syrian refugees are comparable to the Jews in this story in terms of their being made scapegoats by our political leaders, as i have suggested in three of my recent posts, then H-1B skilled and professional workers are the equivalent of the bicycle riders in terms of the potential threat they present to our society.

(In fact, many New Yorkers, who may have come as close as I have quite often to being hit by speeding bicycles seeming to come out of nowhere, might argue that the bicycle riders are a far greater concern to American society than H-1B professional workers, and are a more appropriate subject for Congressional scrutiny.)

I will begin, however, by taking a brief look at the House Syrian refugee bill mentioned above. It is not my intention to duplicate Nolan Rappaport's careful and thorough analysis of this bill (H.R. 4038), which appeared in the November 24 issue of Immigration Daily. But to summarize, the bill would impose additional layers of bureaucracy to the background check "vetting" process for Syrian refugees.

Specifically it would provide that no Syrian refugee could come to the United States unless all three of America's security agencies, Department of Homeland Security, FBI and the National Intelligence Agency have certified that the refugee in question is not a security threat.

One would think that getting all three security agencies involved in screening refugees (a process which is already one of the most complex and time-consuming known to our entire immigration system), would slow the systems down to the point where most Syrian refugees would look for some other country to take them in, just as the United States forced most of the Jews fleeing Hitler to do in the 1930's.

But merely imposing extra layers of bureaucracy and screening is not enough to satisfy some Republican critics of the bill (such as Sen. Jeff Sessions - see below) who argue that even injecting all three security agencies, not just one, into the screening process, would be ineffective because the bill does not provide any "guidance" or "standards" about what kind of screening would be satisfactory in weeding out potential terrorists. This implies that America's security agencies don't know how to do their job.

If that is really true, then America is in very serious danger that no amount of bills coming out of Congress will be able to remedy. Critics of the House bill, in effect, are assuming that Inspector Clouzot, or his clones, are running all three of America's security agencies and that they are essentially useless in preventing America from attack - at least by Muslims, all of whom are assumed to be super-terrorists compared to "ordinary" ones (such as, for example, white supremacist Americans who carry out massacres in black churches, white policeman who gun down innocent black teenagers, or, as we saw on November 27, a lone gunman who engaged in random killings at an abortion center).

But let us assume that the heads of our security agencies do know what they are doing and actually have some expertise in identifying terrorists. Nolan has a another argument for their supposed ineffectiveness: The president could still order them to admit Muslim terrorists anyway, since the bill would still give him the final decision about what kind of refugee screening procedures are acceptable.

This argument assumes that the president would overrule the recommendation of any one of these three agencies not to admit someone, because he is so anxious to let in Muslim terrorists that he doesn't care what the security people say. This argument might no doubt have some resonance with the significant number of Republican voters who still believe that President Obama is a foreign-born Muslim, but is it one that the rest of us should take seriously?

Nolan points out the House bill might not actually accomplish its Republican sponsors' objectives of increasing scrutiny of Syrian refugees who wish to come to the United States. But is the proposal for scrutiny by three government agencies, instead of just one, really meant to protect America from terrorist attacks, or is its real purpose to delay admission of all Syrian refugees indefinitely?

Not surprisingly, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama), who has been complaining for a long time that "immigration is at a record high" and is now warning that "the populations of all the Middle Eastern countries" might "move to Europe and the United States" (Oy, veh!, as they say in Arabic) is making the same argument, namely that the House bill would allow the president to "direct" the heads of all three agencies (who, as Sessions points out, are appointed by the president) to "sign off on the administration's screening process".



Another assumption implicit in Sen. Sessions' statement, and one which Nolan also appears to give some credence to, is that there is no effective way to check the background of Syrian refugees for terrorist activity. We cannot ask their persecutors in Syria, whether Assad or ISIS, to share databases (such as they are) with us.

But is this not an argument that could have been made against admitting any refugees in America's entire history, whether from Cuba, Hungary or Vietnam? It assumes that Syrian refugees (unless they are "proven Christians", according to Rupert Murdoch) are so inherently evil and dangerous (especially children under five, according to NJ Governor Chris Christie), that there is no way to check them effectively.

But is this argument based on valid security considerations, or is it based on prejudice against Muslims in general?

In Part 2 of this series, I will look at Senate Bill S.2284, which, one can be assured, avoids any possibility that the president and his security agency chiefs would actually be allowed to carry out their responsibility to decide which Syrian Muslim refugees are safe to admit to America (if any).

The Senate bill, as we shall see, places the final decision about which refugees to admit, not in the hands of the security professionals whom we normally rely on to protect America from threats, but in the hands of a highly polarized, politicized Congress, which, we can be sure, can be relied on to make decisions about admitting refugees on the basis of popular prejudice against Muslims, rather than on the actual merits of any given refugee application.

At the danger of repeating myself once again, the parallel with the American politicians who pandered to popular anti-Semitism by barring all but a very few Jewish refugees from the Nazis in the 1930's is too clear to ignore.

To be continued in Part 2.
Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School who has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants obtain work visas and green cards for more than 35 years. He believes that immigration law is not merely concerned with technical rules, but also with human lives, and human rights.

Roger's email is algaselex@gmail.com