Like his father, GOP contender Rep. Ron Paul (TX), freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is well known for his beliefs that the government should not be in the business of helping the poor and downtrodden. Now Politico is reporting that Paul is single-handedly holding up $36 million in benefits for elderly and disabled refugees.
Funding for the refugees ran out on Friday, but Paul refuses to lift his hold out of a professed concern that the money could be used to aid terrorists:
In a statement to POLITICO on Tuesday, Paul confirmed he was blocking the bill over concerns the money could be used to aid domestic terrorists. Two alleged terrorists, who came to the U.S. through a refugee program and were receiving welfare benefits, were arrested this year in Paul’s hometown of Bowling Green, Ky.
“This incident alone raises serious questions about the system through which they came to the United States, and I am insisting on a full investigation on our practice of providing welfare to refugees,” Paul said. [...]
The bill would extend funding for one year for about 5,600 elderly and disabled refugees from war-torn regions of the world, including Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some are victims of human-trafficking or torture.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the bill’s sponsor, points out that Paul’s actions threaten the lives of disabled refugees “who have aided American troops overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan — and risked their lives for America’s cause.” “The bill ensures that refugees will not lose critical life-sustaining benefits that are their only safety net protecting them from homelessness, illness and other effects of extreme poverty,” he said.
The idea that the refugee program is being used to usher terrorists into the U.S. has been thoroughly debunked by international organizations. As the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights has noted, asylum seekers are the victims of terrorism, not its perpetrators. “Refugee” is actually an elite status conferred by the international community to those who have already proven they are victims of, or have a well-founded fear of, persecution. To be admitted to the U.S., asylum seekers have to go through a grueling, years-long process and provide extensive proof of identification and documentation for their claims. Claiming refugee status opens one up to extensive scrutiny and investigation by the government — in short, the last thing prospective terrorists would want to do.
Yet Paul is perpetuating a dangerous myth responsible for depriving victims of the aid they need. In the wake of 9/11, a ridiculously broad definition of what it means to provide “material support” to terrorists groups has denied protection to thousands of persecuted refugees who pose no threat to national security. Refugees caught up in this legal snare include those who were violently coerced into helping the very groups they are now seeking protection from, or involuntarily aided organizations that are not even officially considered terrorist groups.