Common ground on the Syrian refugee situation

By Tom Quiner

mrz112015dapr20151120014538“The refugee dilemma.”

This is the headline I used in a post a few days ago along with this political cartoon.

It generated some pushback. Here’s one nuanced response:

“Er … and this is a reasoned, well-thought out mature response is it, Tom?”

My response: Er, it’s called political satire. The cartoon captures the concerns of most Americans that ISIS wants to import terrorists into our homeland. We know this is true, because they’ve told us.

The cartoon perfectly captures the dilemma.

Here’s a less nuanced response:

“Which refugee dilemma are you referring to? Is it that if you refuse to help anyone, you’re playing Russian roulette in terms of radicalising more people both overseas and within your borders? Or is it the Russian roulette in terms of going against the clear teachings of Jesus? Playing with your eternal soul, so to speak.

Or maybe it’s just the Russian roulette with your human conscience – sitting in your comfortable life in the richest country in the world, refusing to help people in desperate need because you don’t like foreigners (and can’t even hide from yourself that the security red herring would cut both ways and is therefore irrelevant).”

In spite of the writer’s lack of nuance, let’s try to find some common ground.

COMMON GROUND–> The United States is welcoming to refugees, having accepted close to half a million since 2009, about the size of Central Iowa. The amount is capped each year by the president in consultation with Congress.

The proposed cap for next year is 85,000 refugees.

The only question is: from where will they come? Syria is but one nation persecuting their countrymen. Refugee situations exist in the Mideast, Africa, and East Asia. To which persecuted group should we open our doors?

So, on what basis should we admit refugees? President Obama insists that religion should have nothing to do with it:

When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted … that’s shameful…. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

COMMON GROUND–> But in fact, a religious test is not only American, it is the law when considering which refugees to admit. It’s spelled out in section 1158 of Title 8, U.S. code. An alien applying for admission to the U.S. …

must establish that … religion [among other things] … was or will be at least one central reason for persecuting the applicant.

Mr. Obama may not like the law. But it is his job to execute the law.

COMMON GROUND–> The code is specific in Section 1101(a)(42)(A) of Title 8, U.S. code on exactly what the term refugee means:

The term “refugee” means (A) any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality … and who is unable or unwilling to return to … that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of … religion [among other things] …[.]

Let’s face it, Christians are being persecuted, burned alive, raped, beheaded for their religious faith by Islamic terrorists throughout the world, but especially in territory controlled by ISIS.

Interestingly, I have not heard of a single instance of any Christian burning, raping, or beheading a Muslim for their faith anytime in my lifetime.

So, regarding the specific Syrian situation, we have even more common ground. According to U.S. law, there would be little disagreement on admitting Christian refugees. But because of ISIS’ stated intent to export their vicious brand of terrorism to the U.S. homeland, we would be foolish to rush the vetting process that attempts to sort out Islamic killers trying to sneak into the U.S.

Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, says we need to be careful:

“We cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion. This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.”

The United States is the most compassionate nation in the history of the world. There is little doubt that we will at some point accept some Syrian refugees escaping ISIS anti-Christian persecution.

But it is the president’s job to enforce the laws on the book and vet incoming refugees with Americans’ security in mind.

We can all find common ground on that.





  1. The Isaiah 53:5 Project on November 25, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Good post Tom. We have a horrible refugee situation that does not, other than turning away those in need, have a good or practical solution.

    I have heard that we should open our borders and let all the refugees in because it’s the good Christian thing to do but, more often than not, the people who are saying this are not Christians and are therefore not entitled to speak about what Christians should or should not do.

    The people you got pushback from are angry and unreasonable atheists who repeat leftist talking points without thought and aren’t worth the time.

    Other than the fact that human suffering is bad, there is no common ground between people who support Obama’s (and your detractor’s) position and those who are concerned with the safety of Americans.

    Really, it’s time we stopped worrying about what to do with refugees, they are a diversion, and go after the reason they exist in the first place.


    • violetwisp on November 27, 2015 at 3:27 pm

      “The people you got pushback from are angry and unreasonable atheists who repeat leftist talking points without thought and aren’t worth the time.”

      I don’t think I’m angry or unreasonable, and I think conversation about how to assist people who are suffering (even if you’re too scared and concerned about yourself to help) is always worth the time.

      • The Isaiah 53:5 Project on November 28, 2015 at 2:57 pm


        The fact that you applaud a comment that blames U.S. foreign policy under Bush yet gives Obama a pass and calls Isreal a nation led by a racist apartheid regime is proof you have nothing useful to add to the debate. In fact, there is so much wrong with your opinion, I wouldn’t even know where to start if I had the time or desire to argue against it.

        This is why, generally, I chose not to engage you and your atheist pals online, no point.


        • violetwisp on November 28, 2015 at 3:57 pm

          I’m sorry you feel that way. I think everything is up for discussion, even when I think people are are completely wrong. If I had your attitude, I’d still have the same opinions as you do …

          • The Isaiah 53:5 Project on November 28, 2015 at 8:18 pm


            I have been having conversations exactly like those I have had with you for 15 years, they are tiresome, and pointless.

            You, ma’am are a scoffer who delights in mocking faith and the faithful, not an intellectual who is not the least bit interested in changing minds or learning.

            One look at your blog should prove to anyone that you should not be taken seriously.

            Plus, you consistently endorse the words of vile haters. That diminishes you and places you forever beyond the pale of civil discourse.

            You really don’t deserve the courtesy of either replies or engagement of any sort.

          • violetwisp on November 29, 2015 at 7:43 am

            Okay, thanks for your opinion. I’ll have a think about that. Most of my interjections are into discussions I feel passionately about, like the moral and logical obligation of rich countries to help people in dire need, or the rights of people who love each other to enter legal relationships that are respected by the rest of society. But you’re right that if I’m simply coming across as mocking the people who object, I’m not advanced these issues in any way.

          • The Isaiah 53:5 Project on November 29, 2015 at 4:29 pm


            I never meant to imply you weren’t passionate or sincere but you do come accros as mocking. To make matters worse, you encourage mocking when you link to Christian blogs, as you did today.

            You own your comment forum Violet. Not speaking out against Ark, KIA, and the like is the same, to me anyway, as an endorsement of their juvenile rhetoric and it diminishes you.

            You want to discuss something with me as an adult, fine, I have time. I do not however, have the time or the desire to entertain scoffers.


  2. nickcthompson on November 25, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    To say that Section 1158(a)(42)(A) creates a “religious test” in the same way that Obama was referring to a “religious test” is simply wrong. That section defines a refugee as “. . . any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion . . . .” 8 U.S.C.A. § 1101.

    The statute provides that persecution or fear of persecution on account of a person’s religion is one of several bases upon which a person could be defined as a refugee. It has nothing to do with the position that we should only let Christian refugees into the country, which is exactly what Obama was responding to. That’s obvious when you look at the complete quote: “When I hear folks say that, ‘Maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims,’ when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful . . . .”

    I’m not taking issue with any of your statements about Christian persecution; certainly a person who has been persecuted or fears persecution because of his Christian beliefs could be a refugee under the statute. But to suggest that Obama’s criticism of using the religious test suggested by some candidates (i.e., Christians in, others not) is somehow contrary to the statute is inaccurate.

    The statute is one thing, values are another. I would agree with Obama that it is totally against our values as a country to say that people of “x” faith cannot enter our country as refugees. I think that was his only point. To somehow tie that into the statute you cited is a heck of a stretch.

    • quinersdiner on November 26, 2015 at 10:21 am

      We have common ground, Nick. The statute clearly states, as you reiterated, that religious persecution IS a basis for attaining refugee status, even if there other considerations as well. There is no doubt that Christians are being persecuted by ISIS Islamists. There is no doubt that ISIS wants to sneak terrorists into the U.S. I welcome the admission of these Christian refugees. However, like the vast majority of Americans, I think we should go slow in admitting the rest. In all cases, the government should vet each refugee applicant far more carefully than years past since ISIS is war with us.

  3. Shawn Pavlik on November 25, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    3% – This is our percentage of the world’s population.
    20% – This is the percentage of the total number of immigrants in the world who immigrate to the US.

    To say we are not a welcoming country is ridiculous. BUT…we need to be careful with these refugees. FBI has already said it will be very difficult to vet theses refugees compared to vetting Iraqi refugees who our troops knew and worked beside for several years. ISIS has already said they are trying to infiltrate the groups of refugees.

    Should we not be in the least bit concerned?

  4. parrillaturi on November 25, 2015 at 11:54 pm

    Good post, Tom. In essence, we would be playing Russian roulette, if were to allow everyone who claims to persecuted into this nation, without first determining that those who claim to be, are truly the ones who are in danger. Somebody posted that Anne Frank had been denied entrance into the US, therefore, why do the same to Syrians. Bad analogy. Anne was not trying to kill us. Well, we’ll see what takes place. Blessings.

  5. parrillaturi on November 26, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I just heard on the news, that Germany has identified ISIS operatives, within the ranks of refugees coming out of Syria. How well vetted are those attempting to enter the US?

    • quinersdiner on November 26, 2015 at 11:43 am

      I don’t have confidence in the Obama administration’s commitment to vetting.

  6. violetwisp on November 27, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    “Facing the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees — fleeing death by war and famine, and journeying towards the hope of life — the Gospel calls, asking of us to be close to the smallest and forsaken. To give them a concrete hope,” he said. “And not just to tell them: ‘Have courage, be patient!”

    Your Pope

    • quinersdiner on November 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      I agree with Pope Francis. I also agree with those who believe we should vet potential refugees very carefully and to screen out potential terrorists. In other words, both sides are reasonable. In other words, both approaches are not mutually exclusive. However, Mr. Obama lacks the ability to bring people together, despite the fact that much of this mess is the fruit of his failed foreign policy strategies. His natural instincts are to mock Republicans, not persuade them. There could have been a middle ground. Republicans passed reasonable, bipartisan legislation with 47 Democrats voting with Republicans. The American public overwhelming agrees. The president’s delicate ego compels him to veto it.

      • violetwisp on November 28, 2015 at 3:54 pm

        I’m glad to hear you agree with Pope Francis. Do you think he’d be happy or sad about your graphic whipping up unnecessary fear by suggesting one in six is a terrorist?

        • quinersdiner on November 28, 2015 at 4:13 pm

          I think he understands political satire.

  7. violetwisp on November 29, 2015 at 9:01 am

    […] (The Isaiah 53:5 Project on Quiner’s Diner) […]

  8. KIA on November 29, 2015 at 10:41 am

    james, do you know the difference between judgment and condemnation? might be a good study for you and how you just treated Violet.

  9. KIA on November 29, 2015 at 10:44 am

    great balanced approach in the post by the way. I appreciated it.

    • quinersdiner on November 29, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks. There are two legitimate sides to the argument. America’s financial outreach to the world is unprecedented in human history. Because of our Judeo-Christian value system, we are natural helpers to the world’s needy. Sadly, Islamic terrorism makes it harder to tend to the needy as quickly as we like.

      • KIA on November 29, 2015 at 12:57 pm

        The desire and absolute stated aim of the terrorists to infiltrate and take advantage of that kindness to stage attacks here and in Europe is making the whole thing confusing and torrid.meanwhile back at home, honest people with honest reservations and disagreements with the refugee programs desire to be sorry for them before exercising safety are condemned by other people of faith and those of no faith at all as being heartless and cruel.
        It’s a mess

        • quinersdiner on November 29, 2015 at 1:03 pm

          Indeed it is, but it didn’t have to be this way.

  10. Arkenaten on December 8, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    I have time. I do not however, have the time or the desire to entertain scoffers.

    A large part of your blogging modus operandi is scoffing at those who do not agree with your extreme conservative/religious views, James.