Since the Obama administration has talked about increasing the number of Syrian refugees for resettlement in the United States, there has been an uptick in anti-refugee rhetoric from mainstream politicians to anti-immigrant activists. It has also exacerbated the anti-Muslim sentiment already prevalent in these circles.
People from various segments of society are exploiting fears about terrorists infiltrating groups of refugees who might enter the United States. Different communities such as Spartanburg, South Carolina and Twin Falls, Idaho, have responded to this fear-mongering by expressing concerns that Muslim refugees might bring radical Islam to their communities
Michael Cutler, who writes for a number of anti-immigrant organizations such as Californians for Population Stabilization and Progressives for Immigration Reform is an example of an activist who is railing against allowing refugees to settle in the U.S. Cutler has also written a number of articles for FrontPage Magazine, the media-arm of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a right-wing ultra-conservative organization that claims to combat the efforts of the “radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country.”
In an article in FrontPage on October 1, Cutler claimed that the residents of Spartanburg, South Carolina invited him to be the keynote speaker at a public forum on refugee resettlement on September 20, and to speak at a County Council meeting on this issue the next day. At the forum, Cutler discussed “the vulnerabilities of the vetting process in the immigration system,” which he says has allowed terrorists into the country. At the County Council meeting, Cutler gave out copies of The Social Contract, an anti-immigrant publication that is edited by and published by racists.
In another article for FrontPage on October 7, Cutler wrote that terrorists are attempting to infiltrate groups of innocent refugees. He wrote, “These terrorists attempt to blend in with the massive number of bona fide refugees hoping to gain entry into European countries and the United States. Their ultimate goal is to carry out terror attacks, repaying the generosity of countries willing to help them by killing as many of the civilians of those countries as possible.”
Other figures active in the anti-immigrant movement have also taken up the refugee issue. Brenda Walker, who runs the anti-immigrant blog Limits to Growth, has written a number of articles denigrating Muslims immigrants. On October 1, she posted a column about a subcommittee hearing on refugees, held that same day, convened by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest. Sessions himself is known for his nativist positions on immigration.
Walker wrote that refugees system is a “no win project for America.” She added that “every Muslim is infected with a dangerous ideology which may go from latent to active with stimulus from the outside, like attending a mosque in America that despises our values. The cutesy kiddies that the press likes for refugee photographs today may become Allah-bot killers when they grow up.”
Ann Corcoran, who runs the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog, writes daily of the alleged dangers of letting in refugees to the U.S. often by appealing to anti-Muslim sentiment. This past spring, for example, she wrote a book called Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America, which posits that Muslim refugees and immigrants are actually jihadists trying to “populate and dominate” America. The book is published by The Center for Security Policy, another anti-Muslim organization.
Some mainstream political candidates have also espoused anti-refugee sentiment. Donald Trump and Ben Carson have both said that, if elected president, they would send back the Syrian refugees who were allowed to settle in the U.S. Trump also said in an interview on Fox News that the Syrian refugees could be part of a plot on the part of the terrorist group ISIS to carry out a military coup against the U.S.
Other candidates have also focused on the claim that refugees are a part of a terrorist network. In a September letter to Homeland Security, presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Congress needs more information “before we can allow the United States to engage in a process that could wind up spending taxpayer dollars to import terrorism.”
Mike Huckabee, another presidential candidate, said in a radio interview that in allowing refugees into the U.S. “we could be inviting some of the most violent and vicious people on Earth to come right in here and live among our families.”
This kind of sentiment is not only coming from politicians. Sandy Rios, the American Family Association’s governmental affairs director has also expressed anti-refugee rhetoric in response to the government’s plan to accept more refugees. She said, “It is a dangerous thing to be allowing so many Islamists into our country – because we know that at the very heart of the doctrine of Islam is the mission: It is to move into an area and populate, and then take over. This is what they have done for centuries.”
This kind of rhetoric is an example of how different groups are exploiting the Syrian refugee crisis to generate fear about terrorism and Muslim immigration.
As a 501(c )(3) non-profit organization, the Anti-Defamation League does not support or oppose candidates for political office.