By Robert Mann
Sen. David Vitter, behind in the polls and desperate for an issue to distract voters from questions about his personal failings, has hit upon a new campaign strategy: Scare the hell out of voters about hordes of Syrian refugees flooding into Louisiana.
On Sunday, Vitter sent a letter to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (actually, he simply shared the letter with the news media) demanding the mayor do something. Vitter wrote:
As you know, New Orleans is expecting an influx of Syrian refugees, some of whom have already arrived. Based on all the information available to me, I have no confidence that these refugees are being fully and properly vetted to ensure they contain absolutely no terrorists elements.
Please join me and others in demanding that President Obama stop accepting these Syrian refugees immediately, and stop settling any into New Orleans, given this unacceptable lax security and lack of full vetting on their backgrounds.
In a robo call that went out to thousands of voters over the weekend, Vitter claims President Obama is about to turn Louisiana into “a dangerous refugee zone.” Here’s the text of message below. (You can listen to it at this link.)
Two points about Vitter’s profound concern about this “influx” of Syrian refugees:
First, there is no influx of Syrian refugees into Louisiana. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune | NOLA.com reports, 14 Syrian refugees have been placed in Louisiana since Jan. 1, 2015. As reporter Michelle Hunter wrote:
Despite blog posts and social media rumors indicating that thousands of Syrian refugees had already arrived in the New Orleans area, the U.S. State Department reported only 14 Syrian nationals have resettled in Louisiana since Jan. 1.
The State Department’s Refugee Processing Center handled three cases, settling seven refugees in Kenner, six in New Orleans and one in Baton Rouge, a spokesperson said.
Seven Syrian refugees arrived in Louisiana in April, and another resettled in June. Six more refugees arrived in November, according to processing center data.
Reports of 10,000 Syrians pouring into the New Orleans area began circulating online following the terrorist attacks in Paris Friday that left more than 129 people dead. Many, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, expressed concern about the immigration of Syrian refugees who are fleeing the violent civil war and terrorism in the Middle East and Africa.
Second, if Vitter wishes to register his profound concerns about the “influx” of Syrian refugees into New Orleans, sending letters to Landrieu might not be as effective as communicating with his wife, Wendy Vitter. Wendy Vitter is general counsel for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, which oversees Catholic Charities.
As Hunter notes in her story, “In Louisiana, Catholic Charities is the volunteer agency that helps refugees resettle in the New Orleans area, Baton Rouge and Lafayette. Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of New Orleans reported earlier this month that they had settled two families of Syrian refugees, according to WVUE-TV.”
If David Vitter is truly alarmed about groups bringing these dangerous refugees into Louisiana, why isn’t he sending letters about it to his wife and her boss, Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond?
A more cynical person might conclude that Vitter isn’t interested in solving this non-existent problem or dealing with the issue of Syrian refugees, but is more interested in scaring voters and scoring cheap political points five days before the election.