Roy Cooper gives in to politics on N.C. refugees

The Observer editorial board

Cooper dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

The Syrian refugee debate has provided a disappointing reminder of how ready Americans and their elected representatives are to abandon their principles because of fear.

The debate is also instructive to voters, who get to see which candidates and leaders are most inclined to pander for votes.

In North Carolina, Gov. Pat McCrory and his fellow Republicans quickly lined up last week against allowing more Syrian refugees in the state. That’s unfortunately not surprising; we’re accustomed to Republicans here not worrying about the vulnerable among us.

This time, however, they were joined by the man most likely to be on the ballot against McCrory in 2016 – Democrat and Attorney General Roy Cooper.

“As chief law enforcement officer of North Carolina, I support asking the federal government to pause refugee entries to make sure we have the most effective screening process possible so our humanitarian efforts are not hijacked,” Cooper said Wednesday. “At the same time, we must not let political fear-mongering on this issue divert our attention and resources from stopping terrorists who may already be here or who are trying to get into our country in other ways.”

That’s a well-crafted statement on Cooper’s part. He wants “effective screening” but “humanitarian efforts” – and all without “fear-mongering.” Except that by calling for a pause in what already is an effective screening process, he’s giving into the fear-mongering he criticizes.

Remember, the current refugee process requires that intelligence, law enforcement and U.S. State Department officials vet applicants’ histories, travel and immigration records. This takes 18 months to two years for most applicants.

Also, a vast majority of Syrian refugees are children or adults over 60, while only two percent are single males of combat age. They are victims of war, tortured and traumatized by the same terrorists our country is fighting. Intelligence and immigration experts say that denying these refugees won’t make us safer.

Cooper surely knows this, too. But the attorney general isn’t the only Democrat on the wrong side of the refugee issue. In the U.S. House, 47 Democrats joined Republicans in passing a bill Thursday that would halt Syrian and Iraqi refugees until leaders of national security agencies personally certify each refugee doesn’t pose a security risk.

None of those Democrats were from North Carolina, however, and at least one other N.C. Democrat came down last week against delaying Syrian refugees. Said Ken Spaulding, who’s running against Cooper in the Democratic gubernatorial primary: “I do not agree with Gov. Pat McCrory’s and Attorney General Roy Cooper’s call for a ‘pause,’ which is based on political popularity and not the facts.”

He’s right. Cooper’s pandering last week showed a candidate who’s willing to abandon what’s right for the sake of some votes. We’ve already had enough of that in North Carolina.