While humanitarian groups and religious charities across the country are urging the U.S. to open its arms to refugees fleeing the bloody conflicts in Syria and Iraq, a number of bloggers and political pundits are beating the drums of intolerance, using conspiracy theories and anti-Muslim rhetoric to mobilize the American public against accepting migrants escaping war.
Several of the leading voices in this effort are sponsored by Robert Shillman, a wealthy donor to conservative causes who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, a suburb of San Diego.
Shillman, who did not respond to a request for comment, is the founder and chairman of Cognex Corp., a company that produces manufacturing technology.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at FrontPage Magazine, has argued that the only “genuine refugees” are “Christian and non-Muslim” and that the U.S. should not accept any Muslims from the conflict in Syria because those fleeing the region “are not victims, they are perpetrators.”
Greenfield, who has published over a dozen articles this year about the dangers of Syrian refugees, explained on an Internet news program in September that the Obama administration is “really eager to find new undocumented Democratic voters anywhere it can” and that religious charity groups assisting Syrian refugees are simply out to make money from the crisis. “If you’re a 90-year-old Haitian who is HIV-positive, they will roll out the red carpet for you,” Greenfield claimed, as he explained the Obama administration’s approach to immigration.
Raymond Ibrahim, another Shillman Fellow at FrontPage, has argued that Western nations “should only accept Christian refugees” because Muslim refugees are merely escaping “chaos created by the violent and supremacist teachings of their own religion, Islam.”
Shillman is also a donor to ACT! for America, a group led by Brigitte Gabriel. In a recent appearance on Newsmax TV, Gabriel said her grassroots network is working to prevent the settlement of Syrian refugees in America.
“They are coming to your neighborhood,” she said. “They are coming to your state, you need to know who’s coming and how many of them are coming and whether you can stop it.” Speaking at the Value Voters summit in Washington D.C. last month, Gabriel declared, “We are trying very hard to stop Syrian refugees from coming to our country.”
The U.S. government has pledged to increase the number of refugees allowed into the country, with the Obama administration promising to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees through 2017.
Shillman Journalism Fellow articles about the dangers of accepting Syrian refugees have gone viral over the last two months, with versions reposted on conservative blogs and news hubs. Fear of Syrian migrants has fueled anger in small towns that fear they will become hosts for Islamic terrorists. Residents in cities such as Spartanburg, South Carolina, and St. Cloud, Minnesota, have organized opposition to the possibility of refugee resettlement efforts.
Asked earlier this year by Reuters about his support for David Horowitz and Pamella Geller, two well-known anti-Muslim activists, Shillman explained that he is not anti-Muslim, but rather simply more outspoken than most business leaders. “Most CEOs are hired guns and their future depends on what their boards think of them. I don’t give a fuck,” he said.
Later this month, the Center for Security Policy, one of the most prominent anti-Muslim groups in America, intends to bestow Shillman with its 2015 Freedom Fighter Award.
The growing anti-refugee backlash has been embraced by several GOP presidential candidates and senior Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., the chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee that oversees terrorist threats, said he opposed the Obama administration decision to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees, claiming the move will “put American lives at risk” because doing so would invite “another Boston Marathon Bombing.” Ben Carson, now a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, has warned against Syrian refugees, claiming that “bringing in people from the Middle East right now carries extra danger.”
Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, a freshman lawmaker, sponsored a bill in July to place a hold on the refugee resettlement program until a cost analysis is conducted by the Government Accountability Office. The bill initially had no co-sponsors until September, when the legislation began steadily gaining support. The bill now has 19 co-sponsors, including Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Photo caption: A refugee camp on the Turkey-Syria border.