Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, writing in the July 30th, 2009 edition of Forbes magazine, fills in more details AND asks more questions about the Iraqi Palestinians due to arrive soon in the US. Hat tip: Jerry Gordon. See our original post here.
Please read Ms. Rosett’s whole article. What follows are a couple of sections that interested me the most. Since the story broke I’ve been asked many times what exactly is the process for security screening of Saddam’s former friends. Ms. Rosett would like to know too!
Are those security clearances flowing with such ease because among these former guests of Saddam’s regime there is almost no security risk for Americans? Or has the bar simply been set low enough to meet the UNHCR’s wish to empty the camp? Only U.S. security agencies know for sure, and they aren’t saying much.
According to U.S. officials at the departments of State and Homeland Security, interviewed recently by phone, some 1,000 Palestinians at Al Waleed have already been interviewed for admission to the U.S. They are expected to arrive by early next year. But their names and specific histories are confidential. Also confidential are the interview questions, the number of U.S. officers conducting the interviews, and the amount of time spent per interviewee.
While stressing that “National security is always at the forefront of our mind,” Homeland Security officials describe the interview process preceding the final security clearance as “non-adversarial,” with interpreters provided if needed, and efforts to make sure the interviewees “feel quite comfortable.”
Asked if any of the Palestinians from Al Waleed have been rejected on security grounds, a Homeland Security officer replied: “I can’t go into that.” [Edit: I had heard that about 20 were rejected outright for security reasons and another 100 or so couldn’t get their facts straight in interviews, I don’t know what happens to them.]
It’s also unclear exactly where inside the U.S. these Palestinians will be resettled. Asked about the locations inside the U.S. of some 24 Palestinians who have already arrived from Iraq over the past two years, a State Department spokesman declined to say. A July 7 dispatch in the Christian Science Monitor said that most of the 1,300 or more expected from Al Waleed would go to southern California. But a State Department spokesman claimed that was not necessarily the case, adding that he would “rather not” get into specifics. He said that the actual geographic allocation inside the U.S. hadn’t been decided yet, but “They’re going to go all over.”
The Palestinians will surely be spread throughout the US, but citizens will not know they are Palestinians because they will come into the US as “Iraqi” refugees. If they follow the usual pattern, one thing you can be sure of, they will be resettled in crime-ridden neighborhoods and they likely won’t have jobs.
Toward the end of her article, Rosett, brings up another issue I wonder about also. It has been reported that about 30,000 Palestinians were in Iraq before the war and only about 3000 or less are in these camps, so where are the others? If they are mostly still living in Iraq and if Iraq is improving, why is it necessary to move the Al-Waleed refugees to the US? Can’t they just wait it out a little longer and be resettled back in Iraq? Or better still, some other Muslim country!
Oh, I forgot, no Islamic country wants to take their fellow Muslims—that is Muslim charity for you.
In Iraq, meanwhile, conditions for the Palestinians have been looking up. In a report last month, the UNHCR noted “the general improvement of the security situation in Iraq,” including “a marked decrease” in the number of attacks on Palestinian neighborhoods and individuals. Nonetheless, the UNHCR report went on to say that “Palestinian refugees continue to experience a deep level of uncertainty with regard to their place within the fabric of Iraqi society.”
Whether these Palestinians, once the favored guests of Saddam, will meld better into the fabric and values of American society is not a question explored by the U.N., nor does the U.S. administration appear interested in supplying much in the way of illuminating detail.
The fabric of American communities never matters to refugee advocates because by golly we all need a tolerance lesson whether we like it or not!