Muslim Registry

When you run for public office, one of the first things you have to decide is what you will say and do in order to win – and whether you will use issues to divide us or to unite us as Americans.  Republican U.S. House candidate Shantel Krebs has apparently made a decision to use issues that divide us, proposing what would in effect be an Islamic registry, requiring residents who came here from Muslim countries to register with the federal government.

Proposals like that Shantel makes appeal to our lowest fear-based instincts rather than our highest ideals. We must never, in keeping our nation safe, surrender those ideals and our freedoms. I won’t endorse a system that treats lawful American residents differently based on their religion or origin.  We saw what happened in Nazi Germany where Jews were forced to register with the government, and what happened in this country when we forced American citizens of Japanese descent into internment camps – in many cases while their sons were fighting and dying for our country in the war against Nazi Germany.

I oppose the travel ban as well. In fact, the list of eight banned nations does not include the countries of origin of a single one of the 19 terrorists who killed almost 3,000 American citizens in the 9/11 attacks. Picking out predominantly Muslim countries while excluding those whose citizens were responsible for 9/11 should cause thoughtful people to question the wisdom of this proposal, and how effective it will be in actually confronting terrorism threats.

It’s especially notable that, even though I am not her primary opponent, Shantel draws me into the discussion by suggesting in her comments that “the other candidates” aren’t clear on this issue. Our family, like millions of other American families, has known the sacrifice that comes with fighting for our nation’s freedom and safety. After the 9/11 attacks three of our sons, one after the other, answered our country’s call to military service and were deployed in the wars against terror.

The threat of terrorism and the importance of ensuring a safe and secure America is one that demands our fullest effort and must stay true to our American ideals. That’s why I support a methodical, thorough vetting of anyone who applies for a visa to enter our country, and required systematic check-ins and monitoring of their conduct while here. In fact, an estimated 40% of illegal aliens in the U.S. are here because they overstayed lawful visas.

What I don’t favor is selective monitoring on the basis of religion or country of origin. That demeans our American ideals, diminishes our role as the leaders of the free world, and will likely produce a destabilizing effect internationally. Such a policy also risks weakening our support from the very peoples whose cooperation we need to fight terrorism, all the while encouraging terrorists to train their acolytes in other countries not on the lists or registry.

I have criss-crossed South Dakota for the last five months, holding town halls, spending time in cafes, addressing every major issue. My positions are known and unequivocal. As to the two major pieces of legislation in Congress – the House-passed tax overhaul and the health care bill that passed the House but stalled, I have repeatedly declared that I would have been a “No” vote on both.

Neither Shantel Krebs nor her Republican opponent, Dusty Johnson have publicly shared with voters whether they would have voted “Yes” to either or both bills as our current Congresswoman did.  I think it’s ironic that Shantel finally, after all these months in the race, decides to share her position on a presidential decision, but continues to withhold from voters how she would have voted on those two monumental pieces of legislation she would actually be asked to decide if she were in Congress today. It’s time for Shantel, Dusty, and anyone else who seeks to be our next representative in Congress to simply state how they would have voted on the Republican healthcare and tax bills, instead of getting side-tracked by “Islamic registries.” And while you’re at it, Shantel and Dusty, do you agree or disagree with the pledge I signed some two months ago to vote for constitutional term limits for Congress?

We face pressing but solvable issues in this country that require thoughtful, sober responses. None are more important than healthcare, taxes, and fundamental reform in Washington needed in order to restore Congress to a body that will overcome corporate control and work for the people who elect them.

The issue Shantel raises here is a smokescreen that avoids the big issues Congress faces, and it is a dangerous one at that.

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