Gov. Sam Brownback, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder and other politicians are way off base in their attempts to stop Syrian refugees from settling in Kansas.
But Brownback, along with U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran from Kansas, are right on target in resisting the transfer of identified terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.
Brownback and Yoder, who represents Johnson and Wyandotte counties, are clearly playing to their audience.
Polls indicate 60 percent of likely voters oppose the resettling of Syrian refugees in the state where they live.
But I stand with the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 48,000 churches, as well as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who say we need to show compassion to these victims of terror. Of the 4 million Syrian refugees, it is being proposed that next year, the United States settle 10,000.
Which 10,000 is the key? Why not settle the professionals — doctors, lawyers, professors — as well as merchants, teachers, engineers and others who will bring their talents and skills to America, without the fear they are terrorists in disguise? Why not settle the widows, the children, and the elderly? The chances of their turning into terrorists are virtually nil.
The refugee screening already takes 18 to 24 months and includes interviews, fingerprinting and database crosschecks. Congress proposes to make the screening process even more stringent.
This is no time to become reactionary. So many refugees are in dire need of asylum. This nation cannot turn a blind eye to their fate. We can exercise rigorous and successful efforts to keep the bad guys out.
Speaking of terrorists, 107 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. There once were 780. But most of those have been released to other countries. Apparently, no one wants the remaining group of enemy combatants.
So, President Barack Obama — who wants to close Gitmo, and promised he would — is looking at sending the remaining detainees to the American mainland.
A year ago, Defense Department officials visited Fort Leavenworth’s prison to get a lay of the land. A second destination being scouted is in South Carolina.
Sen. Roberts, a Republican, wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “Transferring these prisoners to the mainland puts the well-being of the states in danger, posing security risks to the public….”
Roberts added, “The detention facilities at Guantanamo are doing a fantastic job of holding these terrorists.”
The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, not exactly a reactionary group of business leaders, approved a position opposing the transfer to Fort Leavenworth because it “will be a significant obstacle to recruiting and retaining business development in the Greater Kansas City region.”
They added: “The proximity…to local transportation systems…poses significant security concerns and could cause critical disruption to these vital systems.”
The transfer of prisoners to Fort Leavenworth is terrible policy on two fronts: One, it would be a grave security risk, right in our back yard; and two, Gitmo should remain open, and the hard-core terrorists need to stay there for the rest of their lives.
Obama’s obsession with closing Guantanamo is irrational. In that prison are the most dangerous terrorists in the world. Some can be linked directly to 9/11. They belong there, where security risks are virtually nonexistent.
This is a nation that should show compassion for refugees, while protecting our security. But those known to be terrorists in Guantanamo Bay deserve no compassion and would pose a severe security risk. A normal prison on the mainland, even a maximum security prison, would not be safe from terrorist attacks from the outside.
Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org