Does America have a moral obligation to resettle refugees?

That is the question a young opinion writer asks and answers (in the affirmative of course!) in the wake of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on the President’s travel ban.
The long opinion piece in Deseret News by writer Gillian Friedman evoked a largely negative response by readers.  I especially got a chuckle out of this comment:
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I’ve snipped the following segments, but although we know the writer sought to answer the question with a resounding YES!, she has some useful historic nuggets buried between her quotes on why (she and all those she interviewed) say we are obligated to welcome the world to America (and pay for it all too).
Deseret News:

Gillian Friedman
Writer Gillian Friedman graduated from Whitman College in 2016 with a B.A. in Race and Ethnic Studies.

WASHINGTON — The first U.S. Supreme Court debate over President Donald Trump’s so-called travel ban took place this week, and while justices won’t make a ruling until June, the decision is playing out at a time in which the refugee crisis in one of the impacted countries, Syria, may be getting worse.


While missile strikes may be exacerbating the refugee crisis in Syria, the United States has accepted just 11 Syrian refugees this year, compared to over 15,000 in 2016 and over 3,000 in 2017, according to State Department figures.

All of which leads to a pressing question: what obligation, if any, does America have to refugees fleeing countries where the United States is engaged militarily?

The ‘Pottery Barn rule’

There is no legal obligation or provision in international law that requires a country to take in refugees, even in a case of war, says Ryan Crocker, who has served as a U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Lebanon.

But despite the lack of legal obligation, Crocker says that from 1945 onward, America has played a role of “international leadership” in refugee resettlement from countries where U.S. military forces were directly involved.

Me: The solution to that is for the US to stay out of mostly religious squabbles in the Middle East and Africa.  

The Refugee Act of 1980 enlarged upon the 1975 legislation by standardizing resettlement services for all refugees admitted to the United States. This act became the legal basis for today’s U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.


9/11 changed how Americans felt about opening our doors wide to the Middle East and Africa

Gillian continues….

The policy remained consistent in its approach until the 9/11 terror attacks, when the refugee program was temporarily suspended, and then reinstated with new security protocols and lower admission rates.

Serena Parekh, associate professor of philosophy at Northeastern University and author of “Refugees and the Ethics of Forced Displacement,” says 9/11 had a profound impact on U.S. attitudes toward refugee resettlement.

Yes, it did. It is when Americans woke up to the fact that migrants from Muslim countries harbored ill-will toward us!

Parekh says that pre-9/11, one of the central tenants of America’s approach to refugee resettlement had been the “Pottery Barn rule,” referencing a well-known incident in which Colin Powell warned President George W. Bush of the “Pottery Barn rule” before the invasion of Iraq.

“You break it, you bought it,” Parekh explains.


Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker lectures us on “who we are” as “nation of immigrants.” 

Crocker says that in recent years, the United States has “sadly disengaged” from a leadership role in refugee resettlement.

“In 2017, we had 3,100 migrants drown in the Mediterranean [Sea],” he says. “How many times can you recall a U.S. Navy vessel sailing to the rescue of a floundering refugee boat? It’s a nice round number. Zero.”  [What the hell, does he really think that our Navy men and women should be responsible for diverting their mission and plucking Africans from boats and then possibly being responsible for them.  I can see it now—-the illegal migrants would demand asylum in the US—ed]


Crocker says he was one of 50 senior former national security officials to file an amicus brief in support of the state of Hawaii and the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project’s lawsuit against the Trump administration in the travel ban case.

Doesn’t it make you sick every time you hear this pablum about “nation of immigrants” and “who we are.” Let’s hope that Crocker’s ilk remain on the fringe of Washington policy maker circles for years to come.
Crocker continues…..

“I firmly believe that we are a nation of immigrants, that’s who we are, and it’s an obligation for those of us who feel that way to push back against those who try to change who we are as a nation,” says Crocker. “No matter how much lipstick you put on it, it is still a highly discriminatory measure based on national origin and religion. And that’s why it’s in front of the Supreme Court.”

There is more.  Looking for something to do?
Send a comment to Deseret News. Click on the op-ed here, see the other comments and then send yours!
And, remember what a rare opportunity the Trump Presidency has given us to rethink this “moral obligation” issue.

Our obligation, as Trump has made clear, is to America First!

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