Most Americans want the U.S. to stop letting in Syrian refugees amid fears of terrorist infiltrations after the Paris attacks, siding with Republican presidential candidates, governors, and lawmakers who want to freeze the Obama administration’s resettlement program.
The findings are part of a Bloomberg Politics national poll released Wednesday that also shows the nation divided on whether to send U.S. troops to Iraq and Syria to fight the Islamic State, an idea President Barack Obama opposes, and whether the U.S. government is doing enough to protect the homeland from a comparable attack.
Fifty-three percent of U.S. adults in the survey, conducted in the days immediately following the attacks, say the nation should not continue a program to resettle up to 10,000 Syrian refugees. Just 28 percent would keep the program with the screening process as it now exists, while 11 percent said they would favor a limited program to accept only Syrian Christians while excluding Muslims, a proposal Obama has dismissed as “shameful” and un-American.David A. Graham writes at The Atlantic:
Between April and October of 1980, amid an economic downturn, Fidel Castro announced that Cubans who wanted to leave could do so. It precipitated a mass exodus toward the United States. Around 125,000 Cubans fled the island in the Mariel boatlift. The question was what to do with them once they arrived. After all, huge infusions of refugees are often unwelcome, and rumors that the “Marielitos” included many released criminals made many Americans even less welcoming.
In May, President Jimmy Carter informed Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, then nearing the end of his first term in office, that 20,000 of the immigrants would be housed temporarily at Fort Chaffee in northwest Arkansas. Clinton backed the move by his fellow Democrat publicly, but was privately furious: “How could you do this to me? I busted my ass for Carter. You’re gonna get me beat.” Once they’d arrived, the resettlement process ground to a halt, and in June, a riot erupted, and Clinton called out the National Guard. Several months later, as he’d predicted Clinton lost his bid for reelection to Frank White, a first-time candidate for office. In the same election, Carter lost the White House. The story turned out happily for Clinton, who defeated White in 1982 and went on to become president, but Carter and Clinton reportedly still dislike each other.
The Fort Chaffee story is largely forgotten by the general public, but it’s a good bet that some governors haven’t forgotten its political lessons.