Xenophobia Escalates in the Republican Party

Syrian refugees accused of being the Trojan horses of terrorism and talk of the “clash of civilizations”… Before the Paris attacks, Trump broke all the taboos on the subject.

We won’t fool them twice. This summer, Republican candidates found themselves overtaken on their right side by Donald Trump on the subject of immigration. Since the Paris attacks, we have witnessed a dizzying escalation in xenophobic rhetoric; it has literally spun out of control since Trump broke all the taboos on the subject.

First of all, there’s the vocabulary — the continual use of the terms “Islam” or “Muslim,” which adds to all of the confusion, and resorting to talk of the “clash of civilizations” borrowed from Samuel Huntington. Even the so-called reasonable candidates are complicit: “What we’re involved in now is a civilizational conflict,” states Marco Rubio, while Jeb Bush denounces an “organized effort to destroy Western civilization” and Ted Cruz evokes a “jihad against the West.”

No to Syrian Refugees

Second, consider the measures taken. They can be summed up in one watchword: “no” — no more Syrian refugees in the United States. This is what was declared by the leaders of 27 states, 26 of which are Republican, who have no legal authority in the matter but who can significantly complicate the role of federal authorities. And it is the watchword of practically all of the presidential candidates.

Not Even Women and Children? Not Even Orphaned Kids!

“I don’t think orphans under five should be admitted into the United States at this point,” Chris Christie dared to remark.

Ted Cruz, for his part, announces that he will introduce a proposition in the Senate for a law barring entry into the United States for all Syrian Muslims, breaking another taboo in the process — that of not taking into consideration the religion of the refugees. As Hillary Clinton reminds us, “the idea that we’d turn away refugees because of religion is a new low,” but Cruz doesn’t appear to be too moved by this. He suggests distinguishing between Muslim and Christian Syrians, the latter posing “no meaningful risk.”

Jeb Bush initially followed in his footsteps, confiding to CNN that “we should focus our efforts as it relates to refugees on the Christians that are being slaughtered,” before setting things right, aware that it was all becoming a little too much, “I don’t think we should eliminate our support for refugees,” even if they are Muslims, he finally added.

0.05 Percent of All Syrian Refugees

In other words, Trump’s rivals have set the bar very high! But this would be tallying up the score without including the Olympic pole-vaulting talents of “the Donald,” who in a matter of hours found a way to accuse the Obama administration of dispatching Syrian refugees to the conservative states of the country (“They send them to the Republicans, not to the Democrats”), maintaining that the United States should “strongly consider” closing mosques and, like a good real estate developer, suggesting to “build a big beautiful safe zone” in Syria for the refugees.

Out of these Syrian refugees — no one remembers this — very few have been welcomed in the United States: about 2,000 since 2011, that’s to say 0.05 percent (or if you prefer, 1 out of 2000) of the total of Syrian refugees abroad. Out of this 2,000, half are children, and one quarter are adults over the age of 60. The men old enough to carry arms, who are not attached to families, represent 2 percent of the total, or around 40 individuals, who, like all the Syrians admitted to the United States, have had to wait at least 18 months and often more than two years for their case file to be thoroughly dissected.

A hypocritical argument that is often repeated is the same one that keeps being trotted out about immigration in general: We would like to welcome them, but in the current circumstances, it is sadly not possible. “Our nation has always been welcoming, but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion,” tweets Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives. If the refugees came from Switzerland, that would be fine, but try verifying the records of a Syrian asylum seeker! “You can’t pick up the phone and call Syria” to confirm the statements of an applicant, declares Marco Rubio.

The truth is much simpler: What’s at stake is the Republican primary, and seven out of 10 Republican voters said they were “very concerned” by the rise in Islamic extremism. It is to these voters that the Republican candidates are serving this unappetizing concoction.

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