Over the past few days, we’ve seen a vile escalation of anti-refugee rhetoric from some of the Republican Party’s most bombastic figures, including presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in the wake of the horrific attacks in Paris, France. A number of Republican governors have also gotten into the act, declaring that the states they’re supposed to be in charge of will not accept refugees (which is not a decision they have the authority to make).
Our own state’s chief executive, Governor Jay Inslee, has been forcefully pushing back against this nonsense, noting that Washington has a long tradition of accepting refugees, and that federal authorities already have an extensive screening system in place. For that, Inslee has earned the scorn of one particularly mean and extremist Republican state representative: Jay Rodne of the 5th Legislative District.
Rodne has been trashing Inslee on Facebook and engaging in immigrant and refugee bashing. His posts, which we’ve been tracking for a while, have caught the attention of the mass media, including The Seattle Times and The Stranger.
In an interview with Fox affiliate KCPQ, which ran yesterday, Rodne did not back down, telling the station “I stand by those comments”.
These are the specific comments that Jay Rodne stands by:
Obama wants to import 1.5 million muslims into the U.S. This is absolute madness! Islam is incompatible with western civilization! How anyone people need to die? In the interim, Amicans, arm yourselves!!!!!
– Jay Rodne, November 13, 2015 at 9:55 PM
The Seattle Times deemed the first false statement worthy of a Truth Needle debunking, which ran online and in this morning’s paper.
Rodne kept at it this week, writing:
The assault in Europe continues and Obama and Gov Inslee’s response is to open the door to unvetted Syrian migrants. Where is the leadership?
– Jay Rodne, November 17, 2015 at 1:59 PM
Inslee is doing no such thing, of course. As he said on Tuesday after participating in a White House briefing on security protocols related to refugee resettlement:
The federal government reaffirmed that refugees go through the highest level of security screening of any category of traveler to the United States. This multi-layered screening process involves the use of biographic and biometric information, such as background checks and fingerprints, which are screened against multiple law enforcement and counterterrorism databases.
Refugee screening experts perform multiple in-person interviews, and each screening is again reviewed by a supervisor.
Refugee candidates also undergo a medical screening. And because of the particular conditions regarding the Syrian crisis, there are additional security screens in place for Syrian refugees. The U.S. State Department is continually monitoring the process to ensure we have the strongest possible safeguards in place to provide refuge to those who need it while keeping out those who would seek to harm us.
Federal officials also made it clear that there is a lot of misinformation about the type of people who are fleeing from persecution. The U.S. State Department prioritizes the highest-risk and most-vulnerable groups of people – children, the elderly, and victims of torture or abuse. About half of all Syrian refugees are children.
We are fortunate that our nation’s location and borders do not put us in the same situation we see in Europe, where boats and rafts full of refugees wash ashore with a significantly diminished ability to track who is arriving or departing.
The federal government feels confident that we have in place robust and thorough security protocols and practices that allow us to provide a safe harbor to those fleeing unfathomable types of brutality and violence while also keeping us safe.
Reacting to Rodne’s November 17th post criticizing Inslee (quoted in full above), Denali Financial CFO Chris Dukelow wrote:
I’m not sure why my ‘STATE Representative’ is wasting time on matters in which States have zero jurisdiction. How about figuring out Mcleary [sic], business issues and transportation infrastructure?
Chris, many of the Governors who have said “no” to the resettlement of Syrian migrants have put teeth into their stance by mandating that no state funding would be used for the relocation services.
This could have huge budgetary implications that would further drain scarce resources away from being used for othet [sic] budget items, such as Mcleary [sic]. So, I am sorry but this issue has a very significant nexus to our state budget.
So is this a budgetary issue or a fear issue? I guess I don’t understand how refugees utilize state resources anymore than other citizens. They get jobs, they pay sales tax, they start businesses and pay B&O taxes, they live in places that pay property taxes. And I’d venture to say that they would be off assistance programs a helluva lot quicker than some of our “own” deadbeats.
Rodne also shared a map on Tuesday of the states with Republican governors who have been falsely declaring that their states will reject Syrian refugees (which, again, is not something that they have the power to do), commenting approvingly, “The tide is turning in favor of common sense!”
Much of the grist for Rodne’s commentary is provided by reactionary right wing author and columnist Pamela Geller. Rodne is so enamored with her that he is in the habit of posting videos and links she’s shared several times a week.
Although Rodne told KCPQ that he believes “the vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceful and want nothing more than to live in peace with other faiths”, his many Facebook posts demonstrate he is Islamophobic. Here’s another:
These are the barbarians that we are up against. This is an existential threat–our very existence as a civilization is being threatened. Islam is incompatible with western values of tolerance, personal freedom and respect for the rule of law. It is time for America to wake up and confront the realities of the challenges that we face.
– Jay Rodne, October 31, 2015, 3:01 PM
Notice here Rodne doesn’t bother to distinguish between “the vast majority of Muslims” and the “small percentage of that 1.5 billion Muslim practitioners who prescribe to a medieval interpretation of their faith that commands them to commit acts of atrocity against our civilization”. He instead falsely says that Islam is “incompatible” with American values. He’s wrong about that.
Rodne’s refusal to take back his comments in his KCPQ appearance prompted the Washington State Democratic Party to call for his immediate removal from the House Judiciary Committee by the House Republican caucus, with Rodne sits on as the Ranking Member. (The Committee is chaired by Democratic State Representative Laurie Jinkins of Tacoma; its vice chair is Democrat Christine Kilduff.)
“Jay Rodne’s bigoted and Islamophobic comments are just unacceptable, and someone who holds these hateful views should not hold a crucial position of power in Olympia” said Jamal Raad, Washington State Democrats Communications Director, in a statement sent to NPI. “The House Republicans are meeting right now for pre-session days and can change committee assignments. The Washington State Democratic Party urges them to take this opportunity to do the right thing and strip Jay Rodne of his leadership position on the Judiciary Committee. Tolerating those kinds of harmful comments is just plain wrong.”