Trump should be hard on terrorism, not on immigrants, refugees
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE and his campaign are blasting President Obama’s decision to admit 11,000 Syrian refugees. Trump would be correct to critique the arbitrary ways in which our nation offers refuge and political asylum to those seeking it.

Historically, we have accepted scores of Cubans who have made it to our shores, but rejected many Dominicans and Haitians who were escaping from arguably far more oppressive and violent regimes. The difference with regard to Syria is the fear that among such a large cluster of escapees, those who harbor animus toward the United States could slip through the cracks and put us in danger.

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However, the evidence we have right now does not support that conclusion. Historically, the United States has been accepting of refugees and victims of war, famine and political instability, regardless of the state of our diplomatic relations with the country of origin.

The U.S. had strained relations with Cuba, but nearly two decades after the Bay of Pigs invasion, we accepted 100,000 “Marielitos” (once a pejorative term), some with known criminal backgrounds.

The immigrants from the Mariel boat lift certainly faced discrimination and media scrutiny, partially because many of them were black or of mixed racial backgrounds, unlike earlier Cuban entrants. However, they were still allowed to enter the country and regularize their immigration status within a few years. The Marielitos and their descendants are now nearly indistinguishable from earlier Cuban immigrants in nearly every category.

The Statue of Liberty invites the other countries to “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” And, historically, the statue has done just that. Around the time that the statue arrived in New York Harbor (1886), the U.S. was laying the groundwork to accept 600,000 Italians into the country during the following decade.

However, during the 1890s diplomatic relations with Italy were very poor at best. Italy considered declaring war against the U.S. in the early 1890s. We still accepted those Italians immigrants and more that followed. The United States accepted 704,343 German immigrants between 1941 and 1960. In other words, during and directly after WWII, we accepted close to three-fourths of a million people from a state that attempted world domination.

Perhaps most importantly, Germany has accepted 400,000 Syrian refugees. A 2015 study concluded that Syrian refugees were no more likely to commit crimes than German natives. Of all of the crimes committed by the refugees, homicide was the lowest, accounting for 0.1 percent of their criminal acts.

According to The Atlantic, only 1 percent of crimes by refugees were sex-related, despite rumors that Syrian men were assaulting German women. Some have acknowledged a slight uptick in crime, but it is important to note that it was relatively small when one considers the large increase in population. The most vicious acts of violence and terror have been committed against refugees, including molotov cocktails being thrown at the walls of a shelter where children slept.

The Trump campaign is going to have to try much harder to justify excluding the Syrian refugees. The United States has admitted 780,000 refugees since Sept. 11, 2001. According to Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryJohn Kerry: Pressley's story 'more American than any mantle this president could ever claim' Schumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence Trump threatens Iran with increased sanctions after country exceeds uranium enrichment cap MORE, “only a dozen,” or 0.0015 percent, have been arrested or deported for suspected links to terror networks, which suggests our current “multilayered” vetting process works.

The biggest terror threat we have is actually from American citizens. San Bernardino, Boston, Chattanooga and Orlando all involved American citizens. In addition, a study from the New America Foundation found that white extremists have claimed more American lives than Muslim jihadists since Sept. 11, 2001. However, the latter have encountered more harsher sentences and treatment by the criminal justice system.

If Trump wants to show strong leadership, he should show that he is hard on terrorism, regardless of the culprit, not hard on immigrants and refugees. White extremists who harm people should be seen as enemies of our values, and thus enemies of the state.

It is terrifying that Trump is slow to condemn white nationalist extremists, who are energized by his campaign, but swift in his criticisms of poor, desperate refugees from the Middle East and laborers from Mexico. His slogan is “Make America Great Again.”

Though I reject the idea that America is not great right now, part of what made us great is that we took in refugees and gave them opportunities they could not find in their home countries.

Dr. Jason Nichols is a full-time lecturer in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland-College Park and the current editor-in-chief of Words Beats & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture, the first peer-reviewed journal of hip-hop studies. Follow him on Twitter: @realdocsoos


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