The Washington Post reports that on January 20, Senate Democrats blocked a vote on a Republican bill (S. 2284) which would have put a temporary hold on admission of Syrian refugees while imposing such strict requirements for security clearances as to put in doubt whether any Syrian refugees would ever be able to qualify for admission.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D - Nevada) had offered to allow a vote on the bill if the Republicans agreed to add an amendment that would have required a Senate vote on whether or not to approve Donald Trump's proposed ban on all Muslim immigrants and visitors to the US. The Republican leadership refused this deal and the Democrats accordingly filibustered the bill.

There were not enough votes to end the filibuster.

Reid said that the Senate refugee bill:

"scapegoats refugees who are fleeing war and torture instead of creating real solutions to keep Americans safe."

Reid added:

"Republicans are creating a terrible distraction for the sake of embracing the hateful rhetoric and vitriol of the Republican party's standard bearer, Donald Trump."

Another amendment which the Democrats wanted to add to the refugee bill but which the Republicans refused to agree to would have prevented people whose names appear on terrorist watch lists from buying guns and explosives.

The two differing approaches toward security are based on different assumptions. The Senate refugee bill and Trump's proposed temporary but indefinite ban on allowing any Muslim non-US citizens to enter the US are based on the proposition that the best way to keep the American people safe is to bar hundreds of thousands of innocent refugees who are fleeing terror and persecution rather than promoting it, or else make more than a billion people ineligible to enter this country solely because of their religious beliefs, without any showing of possible terror connections, in order to stop the bad few from coming to the United States.

The other approach is to focus on protecting America by keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of the real (or at least suspected) terrorists, not making scapegoats of people whose ethnicity or religion may be unpopular with some segments of the American public but who present no discernable danger to this country. It remains to be seen which approach would be more in keeping with the goals of protecting America's safety and America's values as a country of tolerance, humanity and religious freedom.

The issue is not primarily how many individuals of a certain religious background or from a certain part of the world may be allowed to enter the United States in any given visa status.

The real issue is whether, in a time of stress, America will adhere to the core principles of freedom, democracy and equality of all people on which this nation was founded, or whether it will let itself be taken over by the forces of nativism, xenophobia, exclusion and intolerance, under the mantle of safety and security.

The Washington Post story is entitled:

Republicans beat back attempt to hold vote on Muslim ban proposal.

I do not have the link, but the story can be accessed through Google.


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Roger Algase is a New York immigration lawyer and a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. For more than 35 years, Roger has been helping mainly skilled and professional immigrants from many different countries and ethnic/religious backgrounds obtain work visas and green cards.

His email address is algaselex@gmail.com