By Bob Barr
The flood of refugees from Syria and other Middle East countries that the Obama Administration is preparing to distribute to communities across the nation raises very real and understandable security concerns among government officials at the state and local levels, and among the citizenry generally. It is, of course, facile for President Obama to proclaim piously that he "is not a afraid." With the full protection of the U.S. Secret Service, the armed forces, and every law enforcement agency in the country protecting him, why should he fret? The rest of us are not quite so lucky.
Whether we, or any nation, has any moral obligation to throw open its doors and accept tens of thousands of Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees at this (or any) juncture, and whether it is fiscally prudent for us to do so when we already are drowning in entitlement spending, are questions worthy of vigorous political debate.
In many respects, however, as important as are the security and fiscal concerns that accompany a plan to bring in tens of thousands of refugees from suspect nations and backgrounds, are the fundamental legal and constitutional questions that arise when the federal government imperiously claims absolute power to bring into the country whoever it wants and place them in whatever communities it wants, regardless of whether those states and counties want or can afford to maintain them. This is why so many governors have declared their states will not be a party to such irresponsibility. The federalism question underlying such concerns is why the Administration's actions and threats should be challenged in court.
While a few Republican lawmakers in Washington are discussing these federalism issues, it is state governors and attorneys general who ultimately must shoulder the burden for fighting the Obama Administration if they want to have a realistic chance at putting a stop to the refugee lunacy. Even if congressional Republicans were to propose legislation with real teeth -- something the S.A.F.E. Act of 2015 passed last week largely lacks -- it would never "earn" the signature of this president. The battle should be joined in federal court; and quickly.
Under our Constitution, the president does possess broad authority regarding national borders and matters of citizenship; the immigration battles with Arizona clarified that principle just a few years back. However, whether this power extends to welcoming foreigners into the country and then depositing thousands of potentially dangerous individuals into communities across the country, is an important and timely issue that demands resolution. As a security concern for governors -- whose responsibility to safeguard their citizens is no less important than the president's -- this challenge should be viewed as no less important than the challenges the states leveled against Obamacare.
The president’s plans for the refugees, and his blindness to the complex social, economic and national security issues that go well beyond the scope of the superficial and largely irrelevant “morality” debate, undermine the very essence of federalism and states' rights. It is not that Republican (and one Democrat) governors do not want to host war-weary refugees looking for a safe place to live; but rather that they do not want to jeopardize the safety of their states by rushing haphazardly to respond to the World’s moral crusade du jour.
It is not as if there are not current examples of the price to be paid for a knee-jerk reaction to media and bleeding-heart calls for "compassion." It took German Chancellor Angela Merkel only weeks to see how disastrous her grandstanding in support of the flood of refugees rushing to Western Europe from the Middle East and the Balkans last summer proved to be.
Europe’s rush to throw itself onto the altar of altruism, at the expense of national security, was illustrated tragically by the recent attacks in Paris; and it is precisely why the looming battle between Obama and the states is so important.
Obama’s political career is ending in a little more than one year (may I get an "Amen"), and what motivates his decisions is grounded less in the national interest than a personal one as he makes a last-ditch effort to build a legacy justifying the Nobel Peace Prize he received for no apparent reason at the start of his presidency. This perhaps is why he feels no shame when lecturing governors about how refugees “deserve love and stability and protection,” while ignoring the virtual lockdown in Brussels resulting from credible threats of major terrorism acts; or the warnings from European and his own intelligence agencies about the potential for terrorists to disguise themselves as refugees.
Obama's decisions in this regard reflect a cognitive dissonance only possible for a leader who neither recognizes nor accepts responsibility for his actions, because he is -- after all -- The President. Thank goodness we have at least some governors who do not share such an exalted -- and dangerous -- self-image.