Primer on Refugee Law

Fenster writes:

No, Fenster is not doing a primer on refugee law.  He can only comment as a rank amateur on what looks like a good primer (thanks to the highly credible Volokh Conspiracy for the link).

The primer, written by Paul Rosenzweig, is here.  Read the whole thing, as the saying goes.   It is a lot more learned than the commentary.  I won’t summarize but I will comment.

My takeaways:

1. 50,000-75,000 refugees (the rough range of our limits) are a drop in the bucket compared with the actual problem.  But it does comprise half of the number processed by UNHCR.   Conclusion:  we do our fair share of UNHCR work but what UNHCR processes is a drop in the bucket in itself.  Most refugees operate outside its scope, with most “resettled through informal mechanisms, or not resettled at all.”

2. Our geographic distance from war zones insulates us from the “informal” problems occasioned by exodus, so most of our discussion on this relates to the finer points of formal UNHCR negotiations of processing our relatively small quota.  We are debating a significant issue, but it is a small one in the scheme of things as regards the totality of the refugee issue, which is being played out on the ground in Europe and elsewhere in other ways.

3. Our law is based on the language of the 1951 UN Convention. In both cases the definition of refugee turns mainly on fear of persecution rather than simple displacement from conflict or desire for a better life given tough conditions in the home country.  So at least from the POV of the definition of the term, many people escaping war zones would not meet the definition of refugee, nor would many escaping a hard life in Mexico or even drug violence in Honduras.  That does not mean we should not be compassionate–only that as far as I see there are limits to our obligations under the Convention and American law.

4.  My guess from this is one can distinguish between the Convention and the US law–which we are bound to follow–and the practices of the UNHCR.  The UNHCR bases its work on the Convention and needs to be mindful of US law.  But I doubt the US is compelled to do what the UNHCR says in the same way it is supposed to follow the Convention and laws.

5. Vetting is very hard to do well under the circumstances.  And the author makes a credible case that we may be doing it as well as it can be done.  And that if one wanted to sneak in to do bad things there are easier ways to do it than by running the gauntlet via UNHCR and US vetting.

Tie this to the fact that there have been zero deaths in the US from admitted refugees.  And that we have a larger problem with domestic Muslims radicalized here than we do with refugees.  That all makes a reasonable case that the problem may have been overblown.

And now, in lawyerly fashion, for the ‘on the other hand’.

While there have been no instances of refugees undertaking fatal attacks there are a good number of instances of refugees “convicted for, or implicated in, terrorism or terrorism-related offenses“–and that’s just convicted.  40, according to Jeff Sessions.  And that is against a relatively small sample, per the above.

Also many radicalized in the US are second generation immigrants, like the San Bernadino and Orlando shooters.  That’s not a strong argument to let the first generation in.

Significant percentages of actual refugees from the Middle East hold sympathetic views of Hamas or Hezbollah or ISIS or al-Qaeda.  That’s quite different from other instances of granting refugee status on the basis of fear or persecution, like the Vietnamese boat people or Iranians running from Khomeini or Russian Jewry.  The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.

Consider also that while Rosenzweig concludes that the vetting in the rough environment of camps may be as good as it gets he hardly argues that it is foolproof or even close.   Witness the 40 convictions.

So now comes a new Administration.  They are not expert in all the subtleties since they have not been in the driver’s seat.  Like all new administrations they want to take their own measure of things.  Like most new administrations they necessarily trip and fall as they try to figure out how to do it.  Add to that this particular Administration’s peculiar and seemingly ham-handed style–ready, fire, aim.

So they impose a 3 month stay while they take stock.  I don’t find that an unreasonable approach.   And if you step back and look at what has been written about the Executive Order from all corners of the internet it does come across as a significant but not earth-shaking thing.  It is the kind of thing around which reasonable people will disagree as to both substance and legality.  But when I turn on the nightly news why is it all about violins and sweet children with big eyes?


ADDENDUM:  Emerson said it is a luxury to be understood and something of the reverse is true too.  Given that language is a device for ambiguity as well as clarity misunderstanding comes easy.  So at the risk of compounding things let me say that that last sentence above is not meant to minimize the real and serious problems of refugees.  Any snarky note was aimed mainly at the mainstream media.  On this issue (and on many issues where the issue of Trump is central) the press presents one side when the issue is more complicated and worthy of discussion and debate.

About Fenster

Gainfully employed for thirty years, including as one of those high paid college administrators faculty complain about. Earned Ph.D. late in life and converted to the faculty side. Those damn administrators are ruining everything.
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18 Responses to Primer on Refugee Law

  1. Sally says:

    So, I see that you’re one of Hitler’s willing executioners. Oops, I mean trump’s. Why do I say this? You write with the cool detachment of one who never has to struggle with morality. I’ve heard all this before. You say it’s:

    – Reasonable to keep people WITH green cards and resident student or work permits from reentering the United States?
    – Reasonable to keep Syrian refugees out? You sound like FDR in the 1930s. You are contributing to a holocaust.

    Yes, the Nazis thought this kind of thing was reasonable too.

    “But when I turn on the nightly news why is it all about violins and sweet children with big eyes? Because this IS about violins and children. The majority of refugees are children. They are dying daily. Your call for “reason” does nothing but kill children and encourage more compliance with the new order. Is this photo too much “children with big eyes” for you? In case you’re wondering what this is, it shows a child about to be deported from the Warsaw Ghetto to Dachau. Or are you a Holocaust denier, too?

    “Like all new administrations they want to take their own measure of things.” It should be clear that this administration is not like “all new administrations.” They are acting without regard to the judiciary and legislative branches. They have prevented people WITH green cards from reentering this country. They have instructed DHS people to prevent refugees AND legal residents from talking to attorneys.

    You have turned a blind eye on humanity. I’d pity your soul, but clearly you do not have one.


  2. JV says:

    “So they impose a 3 month stay while they take stock”

    Do you really believe this will last only 3 months? As you state, we’re vetting to about the limit of what is practically possible.


    • Mike's Johnson says:

      …and if vetting to the amount practically possible doesn’t result in refugees being admitted – or they are admitted but too slowly for the Lefts taste – the response we will hear amounts to “Fuck it, they have to be let in even if they aren’t completely vetted” when all logic says the opposite is what should happen.

      They get to come here at a pace we set. Not the other way around.


      • JV says:

        We already do set the pace, and do extensive vetting on people coming from certain countries. Are you saying that isn’t enough? Do you want less (or no) people coming in from countries like Syria or Iraq? That’s a valid position, one I’d like to hear a defense for. But the Trump EO is not addressing any of this, was put in place beyond hastily, and is being framed as fixing a problem that with current policies, is working fine. And the “temporary” aspect of it is pure political theater. There are a lot of people who want to ban Muslims from entering the country, you may or may not be one of those people. I disagree with that viewpoint. And, it wouldn’t stand up in court anyway, so we get this shoddy Executive Order.


    • fenster says:

      I think it is quite possible that Trump proclaimed the need for extreme vetting but that when faced with the actual conundrums on the ground he will conclude that there are limits to how much one can know, and that he is left with accepting the risk, rejecting the risk or managing/finessing it in some other way.


      • JV says:

        It’s like his tax returns, the ones we’d get to see as soon as that pesky audit was completed. The supposed benchmark will never be reached.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. jjbees says:

    Anyone who makes the Hitler comparison can go fuck themselves.

    Hitler exterminated millions of civilians, and planned to genocide eastern europeans so that germany could expand eastward.

    If you think that is Trump, or his cabinet, you’re a fucking fool, or you knowingly spread hateful propaganda.

    But go ahead and keep making the comparison. Whites will only wake up to their dispossession faster.


    • JV says:

      “Anyone who makes the Hitler comparison can go fuck themselves.
      But go ahead and keep making the comparison. Whites will only wake up to their dispossession faster.”

      Yeah, I just don’t know where these people are getting the idea from?


  4. jova99 says:

    Boston Marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzokhar Tsarnaev entered the United States as refugees and killed some Americans, maiming dozens more. Omar Mateen was the son of Afghan refugees. Banning refugees today will prevent future Jihadists from being born in America.


    • plwinkler says:

      Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, both nice, unassuming white Christians born in the USA, killed 168 people and wounded an estimate 680 or more people on April 19, 1995.

      Terrorism is not unique to any one religion, race, or nationality.


      • jjbees says:

        The difference is that the Jihad attacks were entirely avoidable.


      • JV says:

        I don’t agree with banning refugees, but I also don’t think that pointing out all the homegrown terrorism is a good rebuttal to those in favor of the ban. People react in totally different ways to calamities caused by their own than they do to calamities caused by perceived outsiders. And I don’t have a problem with that very instinctual reaction because it’s a very human response. I, a bedwetting liberal, experience it myself.

        There really is no evidential argument against the ban when it comes to assuaging fears of potential violence. To my mind, the reason we take in refugees is exclusively tied to the founding myth of America, one I think is important to maintain. There are many who don’t believe it’s that important, or that it can survive being curtailed here and there. That’s the fundamental disagreement we’re seeing on this issue, and it’s fairly intractable at this point.


      • jova99 says:

        never said it was but Islamic Jihad will be reduced in America if we ban muslims. The second generation seems to pose an even greater risk to our security, especially notable in Europe. Banning Muslim immigration will save countless American lives over the next hundred years.


  5. peterike says:

    The whole “terrorist” angle is misguided and stupid. It’s a human quality issue.

    Simply put, the number of refugees we should let in is precisely and exactly zero. None. Ever. For any reason. The vast majority of them will be life-long welfare grifters costing us billions. At the same time, they decay social cohesion, they increase crime of all kinds, they are generally corrupt and not law abiding (tax cheats, welfare cheats, Medicaid cheats, on and on), they increase violence against women, they are cruel to animals, they don’t care about the environment and are generally filthy. One could go on and on.

    Basically, these people provide nothing of use to our society, nothing that we actually need. They are a zero-benefit addition AT BEST, and the bulk of them positively degrade our nation.

    Shut the doors. This nation doesn’t need a single additional inhabitant. We have far too many already.


    • jjbees says:

      “Basically, these people provide nothing of use to our society, nothing that we actually need.”

      Wrong. They provide votes in the coalition to defeat bad-whites at the election box. As most white people are conservative, these people are needed to outnumber them. See the bluing of California (complete) and Texas (working on it).


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