There are immigrants and there are immigrants, and a wise nation distinguishes between those it wants to keep out and those it welcomes with open arms. Unfortunately, however, we Americans don’t seem to be much good at making distinctions.
Thus as we’ve debated immigration policy over the last few years, some have argued that virtually all immigration — legal or illegal — is bad and should be curtailed, while others have seemed to think that anyone who can crawl, swim or sneak across our borders ought to be welcome here.
As Christmas approaches, we should take a minute to think about those who have in one way or another proved themselves worthy of acceptance and make sure that as we strengthen our borders and redouble our efforts to bar entry to criminals, terrorists and those who would flaunt our laws, we don’t punish those we should welcome with open arms.
Those who read The Hill regularly may remember that some months ago I wrote a column about the young Iraqi who served as a contract interpreter to my daughter’s Army unit during her year in Iraq.
His decision to work with us to build a better Iraq cost “Timmy” his family and made him a target of the terrorists who plague his country. While she was there, my daughter saw him in action. He saved the lives of several members of her unit, never flinched in the face of danger or threats and took on the most dangerous assignments as a matter of course. By the time she left Iraq, she reported that Timmy was unable to walk the streets of Baghdad without an armed escort because he was so well-known as a friend of the U.S. and because he, like others working for us, is an attractive terrorist target.
She and other members of her psy-ops unit want Timmy out of Iraq lest he be killed for the help he’s provided, but quickly discovered that it is virtually impossible for an Iraqi in his position to come to the U.S. Interpreters like Timmy can theoretically enter a lottery that allows a few of them to come here, but it turns out that those in the field like Timmy have little chance of even qualifying for the lottery.
Our ambassador to Iraq, among others, has been pleading for a change in a policy that makes it appear that if things go bad we will abandon precisely those Iraqis who have put their lives on the line for us. One suspects that a few of them have seen film footage of the U.S. evacuation of our embassy in Saigon at the end of the war we fought there while those who helped us were left to the tender mercies of our communist enemy.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker has suggested that it is difficult to recruit Iraqis because of the not unreasonable fear that if things turn out badly, they’ll be left on their own. His own government hasn’t listened very carefully either to what he’s been saying or been much moved by the heroism and sacrifices of those we depend on in Iraq, but some in Congress deserve our congratulations for trying to do something about what I consider a shameful situation.
Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) authored an amendment to the 2008 Defense Authorization Act that was adopted unanimously by the conferees with support from the right, left and middle and that would essentially move those Iraqis who have worked for us and who can demonstrate that as a result of doing so their lives are in danger to the head of the refugee line and allow them to apply for refugee status from Iraq. (Right now, they have to leave Iraq and sneak into either Jordan or Syria to apply.)
They would, of course, still have to undergo the security screening required of other refugees to verify their status and make sure they are what they claim and not potential enemies of this country.
This would seem to solve Timmy’s problem, but the good folks at the Department of Homeland Security, apparently operating on the theory that if they don’t let any Iraqis at all into this country they can’t be blamed if a terrorist makes it in, are proposing new hurdles that will make it even more difficult for people like Timmy to make it over here.
DHS, which hasn’t been able to do much to keep anyone who wants to sneak across our southern border from doing so, seems willing to go to any length to make sure that those willing to fight and die beside our troops will be forever barred.
These guys deserve coal for Christmas.
Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com.