The politics of refugee relocation

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 19, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


ANNE RICHARD, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR THE STATE DEPARTMENT'S BUREAU OF POPULATION, REFUGEES, AND MIGRATION: Syrians are less of a threat, actually, because they've fled their country. They voted with their feet.

REP. LAMAR SMITH, R, TEXAS: Syrians went --

RICHARD: And the Iraqis come directly out of Iraq.

SMITH: You say Syrians are less of a threat even though we've had testimony from the FBI director that of all the cohorts of refugees, including Iraqi refugees, we have less information about the Syrian refugees than the others? I mean, the FBI director says he regrets he doesn't have more data about the Syrian refugees.


BRET BAIER, ‘SPECIAL REPORT,’ HOST: Well some of the testimony on Capitol Hill today about Syrian refugees, this as 47 House Democrats split with President Obama and voted for this piece of legislation in the House designed to tighten up the screening of refugees from Iraq and Syria.

The White House trying to get their story out, put out some facts, some numbers. By the numbers, what you need to know according to the White House about Syrian refugees in the U.S. -- 23,092, the number of Syrian refugees the U.N. has referred to the U.S. refugee admissions program, 7,014 -- the number of Syrians the Department of Homeland security has interviewed since 2011, -- 2,034, the number of Syrian refugees who have been admitted since 2011, zero -- the number of Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S. that have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges. Of course, ISIS has developed since then.

Let's bring in our panel, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Fox News senior judicial analyst, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of "The Hill," and SEN. Tucker Carlson, host of "FOX AND FRIENDS WEEKEND."

Judge, thoughts?

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: Well, the law is on the president's side, but the politics are in and out. The law is a 2005 statute when the Republicans controlled the Congress and the White House that authorizes the president to admit for humanitarian or political asylum purposes whatever and whenever he wants. There is literally no cap on it. It would be subject only to the resource, the cost of bringing them in. It is actually that law that the Congress is attempting to change and the House at least appears to have enough votes to override a threatened presidential veto on this.

BAIER: The Senate is the issue?

NAPOLITANO: The Senate is the issue because of their unique filibuster rules.

But the politics is decidedly against the president, decidedly against Hillary Clinton on this. Whether the fear is real or fanciful, I happen to think it's real, it is pervasive throughout the land. I just don't see how the president can do this. Even if the Senate fails to pass the legislation that the House passed, he has absolutely no public opinion behind him and he and Mrs. Clinton will suffer terrifically for it.

BAIER: I want to play sound bite from the House speaker today and the secretary of state.


REP. PAUL RYAN, R, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: It baffles me. I just for the life of me don't understand why his veto threat came as it did, especially given the fact that his own law enforcement top officials came to Congress and testified that there are gaps in this refugee program. Protecting the American homeland is not about Democrats and Republicans. It's about protecting the American homeland.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: It's inappropriate for America, of all countries in the world, to panic and to somehow turn our backs on our fundamental values. We have the ability to check on the background checks, on the -- what it takes, by the way, 18 months to two years, to do a background check on one refugee. That's how much effort goes into it.



A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "THE HILL": Well, I think it was wise of Speaker Ryan to do a bill that really no one could disagree with. So that's why he got as many Democrats as he did, and there's some stressed-out Democrats in the Senate right now. I don't know that they get to 67 with a veto-proof majority in the Senate. But certainly there are 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection who will be under enormous pressure because of the public opinion polling to vote with Republicans on this.

They didn't impose a religion test. They didn't impose profiling of Muslims. They're not talking about what people are talking about on the presidential campaign trail like Trump and others. They're just saying we actually need to find out what your criteria and your vetting process involves because right now the public is not assured that it's rational and it can be carried out in a reasonable way that protects our safety. They want to know what it is. And until and unless they do and they're assured by the FBI director that each person is not a threat, there's going to be this pause. So politically it's very tough to oppose.

BAIER: Tucker?

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: It will be interesting to see a White House graphic for the number of admitted, demonstrable benefits to the United States of Syrian immigration. It's an unanswerable question. There isn't one actually. The U.S. has no moral obligation to let in Syrian refugees. And the problem, I think, the lesson of France is not necessarily refugees, most of whom would be grateful to be here, but their children and grandchildren. It's the lack of assimilation of large Muslim populations in the west. We've been doing it for 50 years in western Europe. It's a massive problem. Everyone in Europe knows it. No one here will admit it.

BAIER: But not a problem here, though, Tucker, right? Look at Michigan.

CARLSON: We haven't had massive Muslim immigration into this country. I'm totally pro-immigrant and I'm not anti-Muslim, so don't hang the bigot thing on me if you're watching at home. But this is a real question. And any western European will raise it to you in private. How do you assimilate people who don't buy into to your liberal values? And it's a massive problem when they don't. Again, ask anybody who lives in Sweden or Denmark or France. Why given the lack of obvious advantages to America is the administration pressing forward?

There are three reasons. One, so people in power can feel virtuous. Number two, because the president clearly has a commitment to change the demographics dramatically of this country. And three, Muslim voters are one of most reliable blocs in the Democratic coalition. It is the election, stupid. That is a part of this. And no one wants to say it out loud, but that is true.

BAIER: Judge, you agree with that?

NAPOLITANO: I do. I agree with everything that Tucker has just said. And I myself, I like to think, have a big heart and I'm generally in favor of immigrants like maybe you. I am the grandchild of immigrants who came in an era when we didn't have these problems. People should have the right to travel where they want and to better their lives.

But in a situation like this, the government would be crazy not to examine their backgrounds, and there's no database with which to do it with respect to the Syrian population.

BAIER: Just moments ago on the Senate floor, the senator from Alabama, Sessions, gave a speech.


SEN. JEFF SESSIONS, R, ALABAMA: The more effective and compassionate solution is to resettle the region's refugees in safe zones in the region rather than flying them into the United States, or Europe.


BAIER: That seems to be a popular line today.

STODDARD: This is the problem. There are no safe zones in Syria. It's one of the most lawless areas you know, that is actually under a government, that is a, quote-unquote, "state" on the planet.

However, there is another side of this obviously. We are asking our allies around the world to help us fight ISIS. And for us to say at this moment, well, we, we just want you to put some ground troops and boots on the ground and fight this war with us and really for us, because we don't want to put too many of our own there. And this refugee thing, we thought you would absorb them, too. No problem, it's really your problem because we're an ocean away, it really makes all this coalition-building that Republicans and Hillary Clinton are talking about much harder.

CARLSON: Why hasn't anyone asked the obvious question, which is, why is it our responsibility to settle these refugees? We did not start the war in Syria. This is a country with literally billions of people whose standard of living is lower than ours who would love to move here, have compelling reasons to do so. When did it become, the poem at the bottom of the Statue of Liberty notwithstanding, our moral obligation to accept anyone who wants to come here? I'd love to hear it. Is that in the constitution? I haven't read it. I'd love to hear the advocates of this program, of this immigration and resettlement program, answer that question clearly. Where does our obligation come from? Is it constitutional? Is it biblical? Is this a theocracy? Where did you come up with this?

NAPOLITANO: It's not in the constitution.


CARLSON: I guessed that.

BAIER: I suppose, I guess they would argue as you're allies, and they're taking hundreds of thousands of refugees. Where is your skin in the game?

CARLSON: That's a transactional question. This is good for America's interest in the following way. I think that's a compelling argument. If can you make that, I'd buy it. No one is even trying. Instead advocates like McCain and Lindsey Graham are saying it's because we're American.
Then why not let everyone in the Central African Republic move here. Maybe we should. I don't know. But at least state your rationale clearly, and they're never forced to state it clearly. It's implied, and it shouldn't be.

BAIER: We make them force on here on the panel. We really do.

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