Former Arkansas Governor and current GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee shared his thoughts this weekend on Saturday night's Democratic Debate with Fox News, and used the opportunity to speak with casual racism about how refugees should be treated following the brutal Paris attacks that left at least 120 dead, and several hundred injured.
"It's time to wake up and smell the falafel," Huckabee told Fox News host Bret Baier, in response to a question about the Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley's comments during the debate.
Here are his comments in context (emphasis ours):
What we saw in Paris was the result of open borders in Europe. The EU has proven itself to be a failure in dealing with terrorism. I think when you see the left-wing, socialist president of France—a very politically correct country—saying 'it's time to close our borders,' and he does so immediately, I think it might be a clue to America that this idea of wholesale having people from the Middle East come and we have no idea who they are, when in fact one of the Paris attackers was one of those refugees, then Bret it's time to wake up and smell the falafel. Something isn't going right in this open immigration policy, we are importing terrorism.
Huckabee's statement did not go unnoticed by critics on social media:
Huckabee added that he thinks no Middle Eastern refugees should be brought into the United States, "unless we can vet them, and the FBI director says we don't have the capacity to do that right now." The sentiment is apparently being echoed, quickly, across the United States. Several governors have said they will no longer welcome Syrian refugees into their states, in light of the deadly attacks.
It's one that seems to be driven entirely by fear. Back in October, the Economist reported on how difficult it is to achieve refugee status in the United States:
Refugees apply for resettlement at American embassies or through the United Nations. If they pass that first hurdle, they are screened by outposts of the Department of State all over the world. They undergo investigations of their biography and identity; FBI biometric checks of their fingerprints and photographs; in-person interviews by Department of Homeland Security officers; medical screenings as well as investigations by the National Counter-terrorism Centre and by American and international intelligence agencies. The process may take as long as three years, sometimes longer. No other person entering America is subjected to such a level of scrutiny.
This process—far from the "wholesale" one described by Huckabee—makes posing as a refugee a difficult way for terrorists to terrorize. From the Economist:
Refugee resettlement is the least likely route for potential terrorists, says Kathleen Newland at the Migration Policy Institute, a think-tank. Of the 745,000 refugees resettled since September 11th, only two Iraqis in Kentucky have been arrested on terrorist charges, for aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Huckabee's falafel quip was tied to his assertion that "in fact one of the Paris attackers was one of those refugees." It's not yet clear whether that is the case. What he's likely referring to are reports that a Syrian passport found next to the body of someone killed during the attacks is that of a registered refugee. Agence France-Presse explained over the weekend:
A Syrian passport found by police at the scene of the mass shooting in a Paris concert hall belonged to an asylum seeker who registered on a Greek island in October, a Greek minister said Saturday. "We confirm that the Syrian passport holder came through the Greek island of Leros on October 3 where he was registered under EU rules," said a statement issued by Nikos Toskas, the minister for citizen protection.
And authorities are still confirming whether the passport is real.
Closing the borders to refugees may or may not prevent further attacks. It will more likely keep certain asylum seekers in war-torn countries from finding safety. Something Huckabee might want to consider the next time he goes in for a cheap, dumb joke at Middle Easterners' expense.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.