Gianforte Panders on Refugees Again, With an Assist from the Great Falls Tribune

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Entirely devoid of ideas other than the notion that reducing taxes for Montana’s largest ten companies will somehow spur tens of thousands of Montana millennials to return to the state, to commute from Jordan, the Gianforte campaign reverted to its most base, most desperate most dishonest attack this week. Once again, Mr. Gianforte is trying to convince voters that a) the Bullock Administration plans to invite ISIS cells to Montana as part of refugee resettlement program, and b) that as governor, he would acquire some sort of power to overturn federal immigration and refugee laws.

Let’s start with the attack, though, because it best reveals the deeply unChristian and deplorable nature of the Gianforte campaign. Last week, Gianforte sent out a mailer featuring the image below, an image that no doubt has Jennifer Fielder holed up somewhere in her bunker.

It’s a repugnant, fear-mongering piece of nonsense, one that has been repeatedly debunked by experts who go to great length to explain that no refugees come to the US without extensive vetting. No scary stock image search of “meany terrorist” changes the fact that the fears about refugees, who are literally fleeing for their lives, will be researched and vetted before coming to American shores. That’s US policy; that’s the law.

Even if there were truth to Gianforte’s fearful, pandering claims, he’s repeatedly refused to acknowledge that, as a governor, he would no power to stop refugees coming to Montana. There’s the trouble of the constitution, which clearly puts migration issues under the control of the federal government. As I have noted in this space before, in the United States, people are free to move from state to state without showing papers like in the old Soviet Union.

Unless Mr. Gianforte plans to stand on the Capitol steps shrieking “Discrimination now, discrimination tomorrow, discrimination forever,” there is little he could do—and even Governor Wallace lost. It’s hard to imagine that a “leader” like Gianforte who runs from the press and hides behind a team of spokespeople will be able to resist the law. Not that he should be able to.

I’m sure, unfortunately, that it’s a winning political issue in some corners of Montana to demonize people because of their national origin and/or religion, but it’s not a policy question for a gubernatorial race, and all the xenophobic noise doesn’t change the fact that neither Governor Bullock nor (God forbid!) a Governor Gianforte can block people from entering our state.

The emptiness of Gianforte’s positioning on refugees was revealed in an unfortunate Great Falls Tribune story yesterday. In the story, as during the entirety of his campaign, Gianforte was unable to articulate an actual policy he would implement. His brave spokesman echoed the GOP’s message when he told the Tribune that Bullock “was doing nothing to keep Montana safe,” but the reporter neither asked nor reported just how Mr. Gianforte would do anything differently.

The worst part of the story, though, was its treatment of the governor’s power in this case. The story gave equal weight to the idea that governors can block refugees, despite the fact that it simply isn’t true. Balance doesn’t mean letting one side present a dishonest case and the other present an honest one, letting the voters decide what’s true. Journalism means evaluating competing claims, something the reporter in this case could have done simply by talking a local expert or spending six minutes online.

I think it’s probably past time for the Montana press to stop indulging this discriminatory spectacle. Until Mr. Gianforte can point to a specific policy he would implement to “keep Montanans safe,” the press should report that he can’t, and another round of editorials should probably start condemning his use of empty fear to win votes.

This has been an unbelievably ugly campaign. A man whose primary political record has been donating to groups that advocate for discrimination has spent the past few months stoking fear about the prospect of dying women and children being welcomed in our state, where they can contribute to our collective well-being and give us the opportunity to practice the charity that all faiths demand.

Shame on you, Mr. Gianforte. Your lip service about sympathizing for families does nothing to obviate their suffering and your repugnant fear mongering only inflames the divisions that lead to hatred and intolerance.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

8 Comments

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  • Do you trust our nations vetting process is robust enough to ensure out safety? I don’t. Who are you going to vote for?

    FBI Director Comey: Appearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Oct. 8, Comey said, “There is risk associated with bringing anybody in from the outside, but especially from a conflict zone like that. From the intelligence community’s perspective, as I said, I think we’ve developed an effective way to touch all of our databases and resources to figure out what we know about individuals. … I don’t think that’s a cumbersome process. My concern there is that there are certain gaps.”

    Senior Obama officials have warned of challenges in screening refugees from Syria.: Several high-level administration officials have warned in recent months just how challenging this can be. While they say U.S. security measures are much better than in the past, vetting Syrian refugees poses a quandary: How do you screen people from a war-torn country that has few criminal and terrorist databases to check?

    • Can you even imagine the amount of scrutiny a Syrian man would be subjected to in a Montana community, Bill? Of course you can’t. But you will fall for the Gianforte-style pandering every time.

  • I would rather not have to scrutinize my neighbor or worry about my neighbor or when I am at a concert or at the Mall. Minimize risk. I do not find this as an acceptable risk. Especially for my neighbors that have daughters. We already have enough problems from illegals. Fear mongering or common sense.

    CAROLINE MAY19 Apr 2016
    The mother of a recent college graduate who was killed by an illegal immigrant who later absconded after posting bail and remains at large, offered emotional testimony Tuesday before a House panel.

    • I guess the distinction between an “illegal immigrant” and a refugee is lost on you, Bill.

      Tell me, since 9/11, how many refugees have been involved in shootings in the U.S.?

    • You seem to be easily confused, Bill. First, the difference between “illegal immigrants” and refugees, and second, between the U.S. and Europe. Here are three paragraphs from an Atlantic piece, plus a link, that may enlighten you:

      In the 14 years since September 11, 2001, the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees from around the world, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute, a D.C. think tank. And within that population, three people have been arrested for activities related to terrorism. None of them were close to executing an attack inside the U.S., and two of the men were caught trying to leave the country to join terrorist groups overseas.

      … there is a key difference between people seeking placement in the U.S. as refugees and the millions of people who have flooded into Europe seeking asylum. The Syrians in Europe in many cases are already at or over the border, having come directly from Syria in to Turkey and then Greece and elsewhere; that situation is more akin to the thousands of Cubans who have fled by boat to South Florida or the migrant workers from Central America who gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border last summer. A refugee applying for resettlement in the U.S., by contrast, must endure a screening process that takes as long as two years before stepping foot on American soil. “Germany doesn’t have the luxury of screening them or vetting them in any way before they arrive, unlike the United States,” said Kathleen Newland, a senior fellow and co-founder of the Migration Policy Institute.

      … since the program was briefly halted and then overhauled after the 9/11 attacks, refugee applicants are subject to the highest level of security checks of any type of traveler to the U.S. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees initially chooses which refugees to refer to the U.S. after doing its own check. U.S. officials then conduct multiple in-person interviews and verify a refugee’s story with intelligence agencies and by running background checks through several government databases, including DHS and the National Counterterrorism Center. As a result of that extensive process, only around 2,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since its civil war broke out in 2011—a much lower number than many previous refugee crises. The Obama administration wants to accept at least 10,000 more in 2016, but even that might be too much for the bureaucracy to handle. Once resettled, refugees get housing and monetary assistance for several months. After a year, they can apply for a green card, at which point they undergo another security screening.

      http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/11/can-terrorists-really-infiltrate-the-syrian-refugee-program/416475/

  • Pete, thanks for your input, but an article in the Atlantic Magazine does not give me confidence in the vetting process for high risk immigrants with the inputs provided by the FBI Director, Obama Senior Officials and the Nations’s Top Security Officials’ (see the link below.) Pete, I was contrasting open boarders policy/illegals and weak high risk immigrants vetting.

    Voters will have their choice soon.

    https://homeland.house.gov/press/nations-top-security-officials-concerns-on-refugee-vetting/

    During a Sept. 20 appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation, Clinton was asked if President Barack Obama’s plan to increase the number of Syrians allowed into the United States to 10,000 was enough. (The United States had accepted about 2,000 in 2015.)

    “Look, we’re facing the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II, and I think the United States has to do more, and I would like to see us move from what is a good start with 10,000 to 65,000 and begin immediately to put into place the mechanisms for vetting the people that we would take in,” Clinton said.

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