by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Deprived of the standard talking points they’ve been using to assail Trump since the inauguration, most Democrats are flailing. Some are joining Rand Paul in saying that no president should be able to order a strike without a congressional vote. There is some merit to that argument, but it’s not one most Democrats like, given that they support such actions whenever their party controls the White House. Plus, few liberals have any real enthusiasm for a strict interpretation of the Constitution.
Instead, they are falling back on something they do care about: refugees. Democrats are claiming that Trump may have been right to punish the butcher of Damascus for atrocities that President Obama ignored. But there is a disconnect, they say, between his military action and his immigration policies. According to both Hillary Clinton and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, anyone who has compassion for the victims of the Syrian regime’s nerve-gas attacks — as Trump clearly demonstrated — must also be willing to let refugees from that country enter the United States.
While Trump is often guilty of inconsistency, this is a specious argument. America’s role as the world’s only superpower does obligate it to act when the international order is threatened by atrocities. The leader of the free world can and must send a message to rogue regimes that they can’t use weapons of mass destruction with impunity. But this doesn’t mean that everyone affected by those governments automatically gets a ticket to enter the United States.
If the U.S. were to admit all refugees from countries where it has fought wars or aided one side or another in a conflict, there would be no limit to those who would have a right to enter the United States. As a matter of law and tradition, the entry of refugees is governed by factors that relate to whether their plight is a special humanitarian concern to Americans, whether there are reasonable alternatives for resettlement, and whether the particular refugees are admissible to the United States. While one may claim that Syrians qualify as a focus of humanitarian concern, they arguably fail under the latter two categories.