Sunday, January 19, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
REFUGEES PART 3:
TAKE CARE OF OUR OWN
by Steve Fair
In 1980, the United States Congress created the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program (FRRP)to provide for the effective resettlement of refugees and to assist them to achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible after arrival in the United States. The Senate author was Senator Edward Kennedy and it unanimously passed the Senate. The act was signed into law by President Carter and became effective on April 1, 1980. That first year (1980) 207,000 refugees entered the country. According to the Pew Research Center, most of the refugees initially came from Eastern Europe, Middle East and Cuba. Since 2002, the most refugees have come from Burma (177,700), Iraq (144,400) and Somalia (104,100). In 2019, D.R. Congo accounted for nearly 13,000 refugees followed by Burma (Myanmar), Ukraine, Eritrea, and Afghanistan. Last year Texas took 2,500 refugees, the most of any state.
There were many concerns in 1980 the FRRP would allow enemies of the U.S. to infiltrate the country. Proponents of FRRP assured the pubic each refugee would be fully ‘vetted’ before being admitted. Vetting has proven to be difficult because often the countries from which the refugee is fleeing is either uncooperative or does not maintain sound records.
A May 2018 poll conducted by Pew Research found that about half of Americans (51%) believed the U.S. had a responsibility to accept refugees into the country, while 43% said it does not. Of those approving, three-quarters were Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Only 26% of those who identified as Republican or leaning Republican thought FRRP was good policy.
President Trump has set a maximum of 18,000 refugees in fiscal year 2020, down from a cap of 30,000 in 2019. This is the lowest number of refugees resettled by the U.S. in a single year since 1980, when Congress created the FRRP. Trump has steadily reduced the number of refugees allowed into the US since he took office.
The FRRP uses nine (9) non-governmental organizations that are paid to help refugees resettle in the United States. These religious or community-based organizations are referred to as voluntary agencies (volags). The volags(using taxpayer dollars) provide each refugee housing, food, and clothing and English lessons. They help them enroll for federal, state and local welfare programs and refer them to social service providers. The estimated cost for refugee resettlement totaled $976 million in 2019 and is projected to be $892 million in 2020. Each of the 30,000 resettled refugees in 2019 cost American taxpayers an estimated $32,533. Many of the volag leaders have been calling on President Trump to increase the refugee resettlement ceiling to 75,000 for 2019, because Trump’s refugee policy has cost them money.
On September 26th, President Trump signed an executive order that allows for states, cities, and counties to ‘opt out’ of allowing refugees be re-settled in their area. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas became the first governor to ‘opt out,’ stating Texas had enough refugees and illegals to take care of now. On Wednesday a federal judge in Maryland suspended the policy because he said the EO would likely be found to be illegal. The issue will likely be settled by the Supreme Court after the impeachment trial. Four thoughts:
First, a federal judge should not have more authority than the president or a governor. Second, the FRRP was conceived, implemented and sustained by liberals. Third, there is no reliable, dependable ‘vetting’ process for refugees fleeing third world countries. Fourth, FRRP is big business for the volags and Trump’s policy is hurting business.Opposing FRRP is not popular because people see opposition as being cold hearted and callous, but American taxpayers do more than their fair share of charitable work around the world. It’s time to take care of those in need in our country.
Sunday, January 12, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
STITT SHOULD HAVE FOLLOWED ABBOTT’S LEAD!
by Steve Fair
Last week’s column on Governor Stitt’s decision to let refugees continue to be resettled in the Sooner state had several readers weighing in. Most agreed with me, but three were adamant that I was either woefully ignorant of the facts, mischaracterizing the refugee resettlement program or a fear monger who dispenses propaganda. In the spirit of Jonathan Edward’s 34th resolution to never knowingly dispense anything in error, I want to correct two errors in the column. Here are two corrections and two observations:
First, refugees are not the same as the illegals entering the country. Refugees request protection while still in their country and are then given permission to enter the U.S. There is little difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker- just where they are when they apply. Refugees are out of the country, asylum seekers are either in the country or at a port of entry. Refugees who are allowed to enter are supposed to be ‘vetted’ before being allowed entry; however in most cases they are fleeing countries where there is little or no government. For that reason, the FBI said it was next to impossible to ‘vet’ the Syrian refugees. Trusting the government to ‘vet’ the refugees is like trusting the government to live up to their promises on social security.
Second, Stitt’s action doesn’t make Oklahoma a ‘sanctuary’ state. A sanctuary is a city, county or state that passes an ordinance or law that prevents ICE from enforcing immigration laws. Stitt’s letter to Secretary of State Pompeo continues to let refugees flow into Oklahoma. That was a mischaracterization of the refugees and the action of Stitt’s letter. I apologize for the error.
Third, many of the faith leaders urging the Governor to continue the program have skin in the game. They aren’t helping these refugees resettle for nothing. The federal government (taxpayers) pays nine primary national contractors across the country to resettle refugees and asylees. These voluntary agencies (VOLAGs) are Church World Service/National Council of Churches, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, International Rescue Committee. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Episcopal Migration Ministries, and World Relief Inc. There are some 350 federal subcontractors in 190 cities, all affiliated with these nine main refugee VOLAGs. In addition to federal funds, these groups get funding through a variety of often liberal foundations to resettle refugees. Since President Trump was elected, he has dramatically reduced the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. each year, which has resulted in many of their operations being severely cut.Fourth, Stitt should have followed Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s lead and opted out of accepting more refugees. In a letter to Pompeo on Saturday, Abbott said: “At this time, the state and nonprofit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless—indeed, all Texans. In May 2019, for example, around 100,000 migrants were apprehended crossing this state's southern border. In June 2019, individuals from 52 different countries were apprehended here.” Oklahoma doesn’t have the illegal immigration issue of Texas, but we certainly have our fair share. With the oil/gas industry struggling and .Texas and Oklahoma’s unemployment rate almost the same- 3.4%- Abbott is right. It’s time to take care of those who live here and pay taxes.
Monday, January 6, 2020
Weekly Opinion Editorial
IS OKLAHOMA NOW A SANCTUARY STATE?
by Steve Fair
A sanctuary is a jurisdiction that has an ordinance, law or executive order that interferes with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement(ICE) ability to enforce United States illegal immigration laws.
The Center for Immigration Studies(CIS) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985. It is the nation's only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States. CIS maintains a comprehensive list of sanctuary states, cities and counties. In spite of Oklahoma not being a sanctuary according to the U.S. Department of State, over 3,000 refugees have resettled in Oklahoma since 2010. As of April 2019, CIS shows no Oklahoma city, or county as a sanctuary for immigrates, but after last week, perhaps CIS needs to update their map.
Last week, Governor Kevin Stitt sent a three sentence letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stating Oklahoma would continue to allow refugees to come to the Sooner state. This comes after President Trump signed an executive order which allows cities and states to bar refugees. Governor Stitt said 48 faith leaders in Oklahoma reached out and requested the State to continue to accept refugees. "As part of their relocation, these refugees undergo a thorough legal vetting process and are often reunited with family already living in the States. I appreciate Oklahoma churches who have assisted these individuals, and stand ready to continue to do so, to ensure the success of refugees in our communities,” Stitt said. In their letter to Stitt, the faith leaders said: “Refugees play an important role in Oklahoma's economy. Refugees are employment authorized from the day they arrive and are eager to embrace the dignity of work, a right that was generally denied them in the countries from which they came." Three thoughts:
First, Stitt’s position on immigration has changed. In 2018, Stitt said at a Muskogee County GOP event: “First off, I support President Trump. We've got to have strong borders in our state. We've got to know who's coming into our country. I do not believe in sanctuary cities. We have to be a state of laws. And as governor I will enforce laws. I will enforce the immigration laws. We will not have sanctuary cities. We'll have to tell our law enforcement that they're going to have to enforce the laws." By Stitt allowing the refugees (who are illegals) to continue to come to Oklahoma, it has become a de- facto sanctuary state. That is not what he campaigned on in 2018.
Second, not all people of faith agree with Stitt’s position. Perhaps those faith leaders who have the largest congregations and influence key donors want Oklahoma to be open to allowing illegals to come to the state, but many faith leaders across the state want immigration laws to be enforced. While they have compassion for the refugee’s political and economic situation, they understand that illegal means illegal and until the refugee has adhered to the law, they should be barred from resettling in Oklahoma.Third, enforcing the law is not easy. The law is the law is the law. While having personal compassion for the refugee’s situation is admirable, allowing refugees (illegal immigrates) to enter the state is not enforcing the law. The governor should have taken Trump’s out and barred the refugees from resettling in Oklahoma until they had fulfilled all legal requirements for immigrating to the U.S.
Friday, December 27, 2019
Weekly Opinion Editorial
BE IT RESOLVED
by Steve Fair
Benjamin Franklin said about the New Year: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” About fifty percent of Americans will make New Year’s resolutions this year but statistics find only eight percent will ultimately accomplish them. Most modern resolutions are health and prosperity related. Sadly, most resolutions are a ‘wish list’ and not based in reality.
The Bible doesn’t mention anything about making New Year’s resolutions, but it does urge believers to examine their lives on a regular basis. Lamentations 3:40 says, “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.” Simply put, Christians should be making resolutions all the time. An excellent example of that practice was Jonathan Edwards, the early American pastor. Famous for the sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Edwards made a list of 70 resolutions in 1722-1723 that he read weekly the rest of his life to remind himself of what his spiritual and physical goals were. The list is available online and I would encourage you to read them. Borrowing from Jonathan Edward’s list, here are my 2020 resolutions.
First, let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak. This was Edward’s 70th resolution- the last one. In this word of polarization and uncivil debate, I want to be a voice of conviction without contention. I realize that taking a stand for a value, cause or issue does create controversy, but help me to present my case (written and verbal) in a respectful way, recognizing only God knows everything.
Second, resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings. This was Edward’s 15th resolution. Reacting to people who attack you, call you names, and belittle you is human nature. Not reacting in anger to those who hurt or wound you takes more than just human resolve. It takes constant divine help. May I lean on God to give me that grace this year.
Third, resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live and never do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life. These are the 6th and 7th of Edward’s resolutions. Ben Franklin said, “Procrastination is the enemy of success.” Abraham Lincoln said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” May I live life with a sense of urgency, knowing I don’t have the promise of tomorrow.
Fourth, resolved, in narration’s never to speak anything but the pure and simple verity(truth). This was Edward’s 34th resolution. Speaking the truth in love(Eph. 4:15), sharing difficult truths in a gentle, kind, inoffensive way is not easy. Often that can be seen as disloyal, double-crossing, or subversive, but ignoring, condoning and overlooking the truth is wrong. The modern norm is to ‘spin’ the facts’ to fit a pre-determined narrative. May I present the truth as best as I can see it in a simple concise way without fear of whom it may offend.I realize I can’t keep these resolutions without divine help so as Edwards writes in his preamble: Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake. Happy New Year!