Writings and observations

jones

When a district or appellate judge retires during his or her term of office, the Idaho Judicial Council interviews candidates to fill the vacancy.

The Council carefully vets the candidates and sends a list of 2-4 of them to the Governor for selection of a finalist. Candidates for appointment must complete a searching application and authorize the release to the Council of their tax, criminal, credit, and Bar disciplinary records. The Council also solicits input from the public about the candidates. All of this information is at hand when the Council interviews the candidates in public session.

Having presided over a number of these sessions, I can attest that the Judicial Council is able to determine the best candidates for an appointment. The Council can rate the candidates on the list sent to the Governor as “qualified” or “well qualified” or “exceptionally well qualified.” This arms the Governor with sufficient information to make an informed selection

A gubernatorial appointee must run for re-election in the year when her or his term expires. Also, if a judge decides to retire at the end of his or her term, that vacancy is filled through the election process. Where more than one person runs for a position in either of those events, there is a contested election.

The Judicial Council does not vet candidates in a contested judicial election. Judicial candidates cannot run on “the issues” and, consequently, they get little media coverage. The voters, therefore, generally know little about the candidates or their relative merits.

The Idaho State Bar performs a service in contested elections by asking lawyers to rate the candidates and then making the results public. However, many lawyers do not have pertinent information about some or all of the candidates and the survey often gets little coverage. How do we make voters more knowledgeable about judicial candidates?

Persons running in a contested election for a position on the district court, Court of Appeals, or Supreme Court should go through the Judicial Council vetting process, which is public and rather thorough. Those running to fill an important judicial position should have to provide the same information to the Council as persons seeking an appointment to a vacancy and they should sit through an open interview. The Council should evaluate and rate the candidates and release the ratings to the voters. In order to make this process work, the filing period should be significantly lengthened and judicial positions should be voted upon in the November general election. This would take legislative changes but would result is a better-informed electorate.

A 2003 survey of Idaho’s judicial election process by Rachel Vanderpool Burdick concluded that voters had insufficient information about persons running in contested judicial elections and made a similar recommendation as a potential solution.

It is time to take action to improve the election process by giving voters better information on the candidates. Then, we need to end the spectacle of having associates of judicial candidates beating the bushes to finance their campaigns. But that is an issue for another day.

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on September 5 that the Trump Administration was terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was designed to protect from deportation young people who were unlawfully brought into the country as children.

About 800,000 young people, called Dreamers, are now facing a nightmare scenario–not knowing whether they will be able to stay in the only country they have ever called home, whether they can keep their job or complete their education, or whether they will be ripped apart from siblings who were born later and became American citizens. Idaho has at least 3,132 Dreamers.

Dreamers are not criminal aliens. To qualify for DACA they had to be attending high school, have a high school diploma or equivalent, or have been honorably discharged from the military. Any person with a serious criminal offense was disqualified. These are young people who are in the United States through no fault of their own. They are committed to this country and contributing to society.

According to Administration officials, the President was conflicted on whether to terminate DACA but was convinced by Sessions that the program was clearly unconstitutional. Sessions said he could not and would not defend it in court. It might be noted that this is the same Sessions who blasted a former deputy attorney general who refused to defend the President’s first travel ban on grounds of unconstitutionality. It is the Sessions who vigorously asserted that a president has virtually unlimited authority over immigration issues, as well as limitless pardon power. DACA was certainly an exercise of executive clemency.

The DACA program was primarily based by the previous administration on prosecutorial discretion–that is, where the prosecutor has limited capabilities, the primary enforcement effort should be devoted toward the more serious crimes. This makes sense and it is the path that Sessions claims to be following, except apparently for DACA.

A troubling alternate explanation for the DACA decision appeared in a McClatchy story that surfaced on August 22. According to that story, senior Administration officials wanted to use the Dreamers as a bargaining chip with Congress to obtain money for building the border wall and other immigration objectives. In essence, the Dreamers would be held hostage for wall funding and other concessions, which is not such a tender-hearted narrative. Congress had not been too keen to pony up money for the wall, seeing it as being too costly and ineffective. After all, the Great Wall of China did little to protect the Chinese Empire. Walls, generally, were rendered ineffective after the invention of tunnels and ladders.

The President gave some credence to the bargaining chip scenario when he indicated on September 5 that he would not sign Dreamer legislation which did not include wall funding. Proof of the pudding would come if Congress could muster up the courage to do what is clearly right–to pass a clean bill legalizing the Dreamers and giving them a path to citizenship and to present it to the President for signature.

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Idaho’s magistrate judges stand for a retention vote in the November elections. This makes sense because two or three times more people vote in general elections than in primaries.

However, Justices on the Idaho Supreme Court and judges on the Court of Appeals and district benches are voted upon in the lower turnout primary elections. If there are more than two candidates in one of these elections and no candidate receives a majority, the two candidates with the most votes have a run-off in the general election.

It would work much better if all judges were voted upon in November.

When judges are up for election in the May primary, the winner is picked by about a fourth of the registered voters. In 2012, there was a 24.5% turnout in the May primary, as against a 74.3% turnout in the general election in November. In 2014, the May vote was 26.1%, while the vote in November was 56.1%. Last year, 23% voted in the primary and 75.9% voted in the general election. Why not select judges in elections where a majority of registered voters participate?

The Legislature may have set the district and appellate elections in May so that a candidate getting only a plurality of the vote would not end up on the bench. The fact is that it is not common to have a contested election for these positions and, when there is a contest, it is not common to have more than two candidates. There were four candidates in the 2016 election, but the same candidate, Justice Robyn Brody, was the top vote-getter in both the primary and general elections.

There is another compelling reason to hold judicial elections later in the year. The filing deadline for positions on the district and appellate courts is March 9 next year. The primary election is May 15. So, judicial candidates will only have 67 days in 2018 to organize and conduct a campaign. These people are not politicians and generally do not have any experience in organizing and running a campaign. Even worse, they can’t take stands on issues and, consequently, get very little media coverage. Judicial candidates simply need more time to cover a large state and make themselves known.

And, voters need more time to learn about the candidates. Only 32% of registered voters cast their ballots in the primary election in 2002. Of those voters, 22% did not vote in the contested Supreme Court race. A survey of voters conducted by Rachel Vanderpool Burdick found that 40% of those who did not vote said they did not have enough information about the candidates. The average voter generally has little exposure to the judicial candidates and therefore goes into the voting booth shooting blind.

Let’s look at a case history to illustrate some problems with the current system.

A fine justice was appointed to the Supreme Court in September of 2007 to fill out an existing term. His term ended in 2008, so he had to file for reelection just six months after his appointment. He learned during the March filing period that he would have an opponent in the May primary, necessitating a start-from-scratch campaign. The opponent had quietly laid substantial groundwork, had the necessary financing arranged, and started off with a substantial advantage. The incumbent had to figure out in slightly less than two months how to set up and run a campaign, how to have others raise money for him since a judicial candidate may not personally raise funds, and how to carry a full load of appellate judging all the while. He won in the primary but by a razor-thin margin. Such a short fuse for such a low-profile race for such a large state serves neither the candidates nor the voters well.

The Legislature should eliminate voting for district and appellate court positions in the primary election and schedule those elections for November. The person receiving the most votes should get the position. The filing period should be moved to the first week in June, giving candidates five months to campaign.

This would allow a majority of voters to select judges and give those voters more time and opportunity to make an informed choice.

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While the country’s attention was focused on the approaching danger of Hurricane Harvey, a former county sheriff in Arizona was pardoned by the President for having deliberately defied the order of a United States Court. Ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court in July by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton for his willful violation of a 2011 court order prohibiting his department from detaining individuals not suspected of a crime.

Arpaio had previously been found by a different federal judge to have engaged in racial profiling and unlawfully detaining persons of hispanic origin. Despite the court order to cease violating constitutional protections, Arpaio persisted in doing so. Judge Bolton ruled that he had demonstrated “flagrant disregard” for the 2011 order, citing his own words in press releases and media clips.

Regardless of what a person may think of racial profiling, that is not the issue here. The issue is whether anyone should be able to deliberately violate a valid court order and get away with it.

When a court issues an order prohibiting a person from engaging in specified activities our constitutional system of justice expects them to obey, regardless of who they are or whether the court may arguably have been wrong. That is what we call the rule of law, which goes to the very foundation of our democracy. If a person disagrees with the order, the proper way to get relief is to file an appeal to a higher court. We don’t allow any individual, no matter how powerful, to thumb his nose at the courts.

Our system of justice depends on respect for the law and compliance with the law. The only power a court has to enforce its orders is through the contempt power. This is a particularly important enforcement mechanism where constitutional protections are being infringed upon by public officials.

Mr. Arpaio had the opportunity to put on a defense at the proceeding that resulted in the 2011 order. Yet, he disregarded the order and repeatedly demonstrated disrespect for our justice system by taking the law into his own hands. He apparently regarded himself as being above the law.

The unprecedented pardon of Arpaio’s unpardonable conduct also shows disrespect for the justice system and our constitutional courts. It shows that some favored people can get away with misconduct that the great majority of citizens would have to answer for. It is not a very good example to set, especially where the pardoned individual was part of the law enforcement community–a person sworn to follow and respect the law.

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Whether dealing with an abhorrent event precipitated by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville or just an everyday spouting-off of hatred by white supremacists, responsible public officials should stand up for decency.

Congressman Raul Labrador says it is “not his style” to comment on events such as that which occurred in Charlottesville over the weekend. Standing mute against hateful speech and actions does not work. Idaho history demonstrates that the way to stop white supremacy is for people in positions of power to strongly and publicly denounce it.

Back in the early 1980s, the Aryan Nations organization in northern Idaho was on the rise. It attracted other white supremacists to Idaho, many of whom had cut their teeth in prison. Many good people in the area stepped forward to speak against them but it was a formidable task. I had just taken over as Attorney General and was asked by Marilyn Shuler to help with malicious harassment legislation that was designed to combat the supremacist threat. The legislation had hit a roadblock in the Legislature, which we were able to overcome. Marilyn, who was a powerful Idaho voice for human rights, brought me into the effort to deflate the supremacist cause.

I participated in a number of rallies to speak out against the supremacist group and its hateful creed but noticed something interesting about the meetings. Kootenai County undersheriff Larry Broadbent and I observed that we were the only identifiable Republican officials at the rallies. It appeared that many were holding back to see where the tree might fall.

As time went by, the public became aroused by the Aryans’ message of hate, but also about the black eye they were giving to the State of Idaho. Responsible Republican officials started stepping forward to denounce the hate mongers and that was the key to the group’s eventual demise—it took an all-hands-on-deck approach. People take note of what their leaders say and it is incumbent upon those leaders to help provide a moral compass.

Idaho leaders were generally quick this time in calling out the neo-Nazis, KKK, and other white nationalists. Governor Otter, Congressman Mike Simpson, and Senator Mike Crapo spoke out strongly and were soon joined by Senator Jim Risch. Congressman Labrador held back until goaded by the Governor because, as he explained, his style was not to speak out on these “issues” since he regarded the Charlottesville events as “politics.” White supremacy is not an issue or politics. It is indecency and it requires denunciation by society in order to deprive it of any hint of legitimacy.

The Congressman is correct that “trite media statements” will not solve our country’s problems. But, powerful, heart-felt condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and racism by people in leadership positions in our fine State can make a difference, as history shows. This is especially so for anyone who aspires to be governor, the most important position in State government.

And, the condemnation should specify the hate groups being called out, such as the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists and nationalists. We should expect or accept no less from those who would lead the State. If a candidate does not already have such a “style,” he or she should certainly adopt a public anti-supremacy posture.

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The Pentagon is shamefully breaking its word to some non-citizens who joined the military for the purpose of gaining U.S. citizenship. A number of legal aliens who stepped forward to serve the United States are being denied the expedited citizen status they were promised.

The Pentagon initiated a program in 2009 to recruit non-citizens with skills considered to be vital to the national interest, including doctors, nurses, and persons with specific language expertise. The Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program started as a pilot program for up to 1,000 recruits and was expanded to 5,000 based on its success. It has been open to asylees, refugees and certain legal aliens. Service members recruited through the program become citizens upon completion of basic training.

The program was closed last December but service personnel who enlisted before that time have been left twisting in the wind. The Pentagon has asked the Homeland Security Department to stop processing their applications and has implied they might not receive their promised citizenship. This could result in about 1,000 service members being at risk of deportation. Can’t we do a better job of keeping our word to people who step forward to serve our country?

We have a long history of relying upon non-citizens for our national defense. Indeed, one of my ancestors came to America with French forces to fight in the Revolutionary War and was injured in the Battle of Charleston in 1780, according to family history.

My first duty assignment in the Army was as executive officer of a transportation battalion in Okinawa. The commanding officer was a German national who was serving to gain U.S. citizenship. One could hardly have imagined a more patriotic person than Captain Dietmar W. L. Zurell.

The Pentagon says that over 109,250 members of the armed services have become American citizens through their service. The Army has enlisted 10,400 persons through the MAVNI program since 2009.

The program has included some exceptional people, including a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, a 2012 Army Soldier of the Year, and a winner of the Marine Corps Marathon in 2012. About 30% of the individuals entering the armed forces through MAVNI have served in special operations units in foreign countries because of their language skills. This is a critical role, given the number of conflict areas around the world where U.S. forces are currently serving.

Although it seems to be short-sighted, the Pentagon has the right to terminate the MAVNI program. But, those who enlisted and have not yet received citizenship should get what they were promised. People who are willing to risk their lives to serve this country deserve honorable treatment.

A number of the MAVNI recruits who were caught in the pipeline have filed suit to force the government to honor its commitment to them. They should not have had to do so. Perhaps our Congressmen could help them get their citizenship.

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There has been a great deal of discussion of late about the rift between the President and Attorney General Sessions. President Trump apparently feels that Sessions should have stayed with the Russia investigation and nipped it in the bud. While I disagree with much of what Sessions has done, he was absolutely justified in recusing himself from issues related to Russia and the campaign. The attorney general is the person charged with upholding the rule of law. He should not be a political operative. This applies at both the federal and state level.

An attorney general must have some independence from both the executive and legislative branches. Whether at the state or federal level, an attorney general swears an oath to support the constitution and laws of the jurisdiction. He or she swears no oath to any individual in the government. The attorney general is responsible to the citizenry to see that the laws are carried out and that law enforcement is even-handed.

Browbeating the justice system, whether the target is an attorney general or the courts, erodes public confidence in the system and the rule of law. If the attorney general were to act as a political lackey, we might have a replay of the Watergate fiasco where President Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, was convicted for his participation in the Watergate cover-up. Think how different things might have turned out if Mitchell had exercised some independence and advised Nixon to let the investigation move forward without obstruction.

Sessions correctly recused himself because of an apparent conflict. The President seems to feel that Sessions had a professional obligation to him. That is simply not the case. However, officeholders in the legislative and executive branches often have a similar misconception about the attorney general being their personal lawyer. When I served as Idaho Attorney General in the 1980s, some members of my party had the idea on occasion that my official decisions should favor the party. I had to advise them that my responsibility was to follow the law.

That is not to say that an attorney general cannot engage in political activity. I certainly did and almost all other Idaho AGs have done so—attending party functions, taking stands on legislative issues, supporting political candidates, and the like. But, there must be a distinct division between political or policy matters, on the one hand, and interpreting and enforcing the laws, on the other. Allowing political considerations to influence the manner in which justice is administered is an injustice in itself.

Idaho’s current attorney general is a good case study. While I may have disagreements on some policy matters with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, I admire his courage in correctly following the law. He has been unfairly criticized by members of his party for not toeing the party line on certain hot button issues. His record of being vindicated by courts of law indicates that he was right and the critics were wrong. The State has paid out a lot of money in attorney fees to private parties by disregarding his advice.

When Wasden said the State Land Board was violating the Idaho Constitution by failing to get the maximum long-term return from State cabinsite properties, his advice was not heeded. He filed suit against the Board and was upheld by the Idaho Supreme Court. This precipitated action by the Board to get greater economic values from those lands. This is what a good attorney general does–faithfully follow the laws, regardless of friendships or politics. Presidents, governors and legislators should understand that an attorney general must have independence in order to fulfill that important role. Sniping, obstruction and interference are detrimental to the rule of law, which is the foundation of our system of government.

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFRB) issued a rule earlier this month that prohibits financial companies from using mandatory arbitration clauses to bar group actions for redress against those companies. The rule will allow consumers to band together to sue financial firms for improper charges on bank accounts and credit cards. Presently, forced arbitration provisions in hundreds of millions of consumer finance contracts prevent group lawsuits.

In announcing the rule, CFPB Director Richard Cordray noted that “when Wells Fargo opened millions of deposit and credit card accounts without the knowledge or consent of customers, arbitration clauses in existing account contracts blocked their customers from bringing group lawsuits for the unauthorized account openings.”

While it is not feasible for an individual customer to sue for recovery of a few hundred dollars for improper activity, when thousands of them can band together to recover for the same wrongdoing it is a different story. The new rule will make it feasible for customers to recover damages for improper conduct, while also forcing the financial companies to comply with the law in future business activity.

Mandatory arbitration in the financial sector is just the tip of the arbitration iceberg. Since the 1990s, forced arbitration clauses have been added to a wide array of consumer contracts that are presented to unsuspecting customers on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Families have been surprised when a mandatory arbitration clause prevents them from going to court when a loved one is abused in a nursing home. Such clauses are also common in contracts written by employers, medical providers, internet providers, cable companies, home builders and cruise ship operators, just to name a few.

Injured parties are deprived of the right to seek redress in impartial courts of law, to have a jury trial, and to appeal an unfair decision. Instead, they are often placed in the hands of an arbitrator who may be influenced by the prospect of getting repeat business from the defending party. This amounts to a privatization of the civil justice system and may be one of the factors that has caused a decline in civil case filings in the federal and state court systems around the country in recent years.

It should be said that arbitration is an important and efficient problem-solving mechanism where the parties stand on relatively equal ground and have knowingly agreed to arbitrate disputes rather than going to court. In past years, arbitration has primarily been resorted to in commercial disputes and works well there. The more recent and massive shift to arbitration in the consumer setting is troubling, however. Very few consumers are aware of mandatory arbitration clauses in the fine print of lengthy contracts or that by signing such contracts they are giving up the right to seek redress in court.

Congress has recognized the inequity of forced arbitration in some settings. In the Military Lending Act of 2007, mandatory arbitration was prohibited in certain loans made to service members. The Dodd-Frank bill 3 years later did away with forced arbitration in most residential mortgages. However, the new CFPB rule has been met with threats of rejection by a number of members of Congress. On the administrative side, a rule proposed last fall that would have prohibited federally-funded nursing homes from forcing arbitration on patients and their families was derailed this year.

People should not be unwittingly deprived of their right to receive justice from the court system. Voters should demand that their elected representatives oppose mandatory arbitration in consumer contracts and, instead, support amendment of the Federal Arbitration Act to do away with forced arbitration in the consumer setting.

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Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, House Speaker Scott Bedke and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney are to be commended for proposing to tighten up campaign finance and ethics laws.

While there has been a great deal of discussion regarding this subject over the years, there has been too little action. I hope that the working group will look at several measures that did not appear in media reports about the working group’s first meeting – disclosure of the identity of owners of business entity campaign contributors; limitation of expenditures by parties making independent expenditures to support or oppose a candidate for public office; more frequent reporting of contributions; and establishment of an independent commission to investigate complaints of violation of the Sunshine Act and conduct studies of campaign and ethics issues.

Twenty years ago, the Legislature approved House Concurrent Resolution 27, which established a special committee to study campaign and ethics issues and to recommend reforms, much like the charge of the current working group. The five-member working group included former Chief Justice Charles McDevitt and former Governor Cecil Andrus. I was appointed to the committee by legislative leadership and ended up chairing the committee. The committee met twice to receive testimony and recommendations from the public.

The 1997 committee recommended six specific proposals to the Legislature. No action was taken on any of the proposals. House Bill 546, which provided for the creation of a Political and Campaign Finance and Ethics Commission, was printed and assigned to the State Affairs Committee, but stalled out there. This is still a good idea because, as explained at the time, such a permanent committee could “continuously review the effectiveness” of the ethics statutes and recommend needed changes. The text of House Bill 546 can be found on the Legislature’s website for the 1998 session.

Recent elections have disclosed that some individuals skirt contribution limits by funneling contributions through corporations or other business entities they own. It is not always easy to determine the true identity of such contributors. Rather than prohibiting contributions by such entities, the Legislature should require disclosure of the names of persons who have ownership interests of 25% or more in such business entities.

We have also seen sizable advertising campaigns to support or oppose candidates through independent expenditures. While independent expenditures must be reported to the Secretary of State, there does not appear to be any limitation on the amount that may be spend on such an effort. Persons or entities making independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates should be subject to the same limits as are imposed on political contributors.

More frequent reporting of contributions should be required. The 7-day pre-election report does not give the public an adequate opportunity to see who is supporting a candidate. If there is something amiss, the media is often reluctant to report it at that late date for fear of being accused of unfairness. I would suggest adding 30 and 60 pre-election reporting requirements for both primary and general elections.

Candidates should also be required to report expenses as they are incurred, not when payment of the expense is made. There can be a significant gap between the two times and candidates often try to disguise how much they are spending by only reporting an expense when the check finally goes out the door.

This endeavor to bring more transparency and honesty to the election process is a worthy one and I wish Hill, Bedke and Denney success in their efforts.

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Raul Labrador’s refugee bill is ill-advised legislation that needlessly targets some of the most vulnerable people on earth. The legislation, H.R. 2826, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on June 28 on a 15-11 vote. This is a pernicious bill that will leave a stain on the moral standing of the United States.

Rep. Labrador acknowledges that America has “a long tradition of helping refugees who, through no fault of their own, are fleeing war and persecution,” but has authored a bill that is contrary to that tradition. Among other things, H.R. 2826 would limit refugee admissions to 50,000 per year, triple the waiting period for refugees to apply for lawful permanent residency from one to three years, subject refugees to continuous surveillance, give states and localities a veto over resettlement, impose needless new red tape requirements, and provide preference to religious minorities.

All of these requirements are justified by bill sponsors as necessary for national security. However, experience does not support their case. U.S. refugees have not and do not pose a danger to our country. Refugees do not pick the country they want but are referred to a country by the U.N. refugee agency. Those destined for the U.S. are subjected to about two years of rigorous screening.

A terrorist posing as a refugee would have to wait a long time to carry out his plan–spending years in a wretched refugee camp in Turkey or Jordan, hoping to be referred to the U.S. by the U.N. rather than one of the 27 other resettlement countries, and then undergoing another couple of years being vetted by U.S. authorities. He might be tempted to take the quicker and easier way that the 911 hijackers chose–to get a tourist or student visa and jump on a plane to the U.S. Interestingly, none of the countries from which those hijackers came is subject to the President’s current travel ban.

In the past, America has been a shining moral beacon for persecuted immigrants. The world has been inspired by the Statue of Liberty’s call to “send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.” We have opened our door and our hearts to terrorized people from around the globe. Our help is needed more than ever now because the world is facing the largest displacement crisis on record. There are more than 21 million refugees worldwide, more than 5 million of which are registered from Syria alone. In FY 2016 the U.S. took in only 84,994 refugees. To date we have taken in a total of less than 20,000 refugees from Syria. In comparison, Turkey has registered 2.97 million Syrians and another 2 million are registered in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.

We have hardly done our part, considering that our invasion of Iraq contributed directly to a refugee crisis in that country and indirectly to the much greater crisis in Syria. The leadership of ISIS is composed largely of participants in the earlier insurgency in Iraq. Colin Powell said that “if you break it, you fix it.” Rather than helping to alleviate the mess that we helped to create, we seem to be turning our backs on a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.

The religious preference in the bill is an inappropriate and uninformed religious test. The refugees that are currently most in danger are from Sunni-majority Syria and they are being terrorized by the Alawite-minority government of Bashar al-Assad. Those people with the greatest need would get no preference. Proponents of H.R.2826 focus primarily on refugees from the Middle East but less than half of the refugees taken in by the U.S. last year were from the Near East and South Asia. About an equal number were Christians and Muslims.

As far as the 50,000 refugee limit in Mr. Labrador’s bill, that is simply not enough to fulfill our responsibility as a civilized nation. There are more than 50,000 Iraqis who endangered their lives by helping U.S. forces and who are desperately awaiting resettlement in the U.S. We are honor bound to give safe harbor to those individuals but that would take up the entire measly quota set by this bill.

This country, as great and warm-hearted as it is, has had momentary lapses in the past when it has treated immigrants badly because of anxiety stirred by fear-mongers. Irish people who fled the Potato Famine in 1845-1852 were subjected to great abuse, even as their sons fought valiantly to save the Union in the Civil War. After imported Chinese workers risked life and limb to build the western section of the transcontinental railroad, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 based on unfounded fears. The Immigration Act of 1924 was designed to hinder migrants from Italy, East European Jews, and East Asians and, again, was driven by the politics of fear. Japanese Americans on the West Coast were rounded up and imprisoned during World War II, while their sons fought and died for America in Europe.

As a Vietnam veteran with many South Vietnamese friends, I was personally incensed by the behavior of some of my fellow Americans after the fall of South Vietnam in April of 1975. They claimed that refugees from Vietnam would endanger our country and should be denied entry. The fear-mongers were wrong because we resettled close to a million Vietnamese refugees, who have been great citizens and contributed much to this country.

After each of these unfortunate episodes, we have looked back in shame and regretted giving in to fears stoked by demagogues. Let’s not let it happen again. H.R. 2826 targets refugees, who are not a terrorist risk, while failing to target home-grown, social-media-inspired persons, who do present a risk. The legislation is either ill-founded and uninformed, or it is intended as a vehicle for politicians to ride to political stardom at the expense of powerless and vulnerable refugees.

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