Hagedorn: U.S. needs to halt refugee program, immigration from hostile nations

By Trey Mewes, Mankato Free Press - MANKATO — 1st Congressional District candidate Jim Hagedorn is calling for a temporary ban on refugees entering the U.S. in response to the Orlando shooting that took place last Sunday.

Hagedorn told reporters Wednesday he believed the U.S. needs to restrict immigration from enemy countries, fix the nation's visa system and take a hard line against those who have ties to so-called radical Islamic terrorists.

"The U.S. is at war with Islamic supremacists who adhere to the radical ideology of Islam, and I mean that the ideology of radical Islam," he said. "I believe that any political leader, anyone who doesn't step up and call out our enemy is someone that can't be counted upon to defeat our enemy."

The Republican from Blue Earth is running against U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota in this year's election.

Hagedorn has taken a stand against refugees and immigration before, notably last September in an editorial for the Star Tribune where he called for a time-out on the U.S. refugee program.

He repeated those calls again in response to the shooting that took place early Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, where 49 people were killed and dozens more injured.

Hagedorn joins a growing number of politicians calling for stricter immigration rules after similar shootings by people who identified as Islamic terrorists. Donald Trump, the Republican party's presumptive presidential nominee, called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. earlier this week after the Orlando shooting took place.

President Barack Obama sharply criticized Trump's proposal in a press conference Tuesday, as well as Republicans' insistence he use the words "radical Islam" when identifying terrorists.

“What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change?" Obama said. "Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above.”

Hagedorn stopped short of saying he would support a ban on Muslims Wednesday, though he did note part of the issue behind recent terrorism-related shootings was radical ideology from predominantly Muslim countries. Rather, he said the U.S. needed to close its borders in order to reform its process in accepting immigrants and refugees.

Behind the programs

The U.S. has drastically cut down on the amount of refugees and immigrants who settle here over the past two decades.

About 70,000 refugees are annually resettled into the U.S. since 2013. That number has dropped on occasion — U.S. officials only took in a little more than 50,000 refugees in 2011, and about the same in 2012 — but our country typically has taken in that many refugees yearly since 2008.

Refugees typically have to go through an 18- to 24-month vetting process before they are admitted to the U.S.

The highest number of refugees the U.S. has accepted was 142,000 in 1993. This year, the Obama Administration raised the refugee program's cutoff to 85,000 refugees, which could include a few hundred more refugees in the Mankato area.

That's just a small number compared to the 12 to 15 million refugees across the world who have been displaced from their homes and live in another country, according to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

The commission estimates about 60 million refugees displaced from their homes worldwide.

Conservative politicians have raised concerns over the U.S.'s refugee program after recent shootings where the gunmen either were immigrants or had ties to immigrants. The Orlando nightclub shooter, Omar Mateen, was a U.S.-born citizen but his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan in the 1980s.

In addition, a recent spate of terrorism recruiting cases involving Minnesota's Somali community has spurred calls to restrict refugee entry to the U.S. even further than it already is.

"We have a terrorist recruiting problem in our country, and in the state of Minnesota," Hagedorn said.

Walz discussed the problems behind the U.S.'s refugee system last November in a lecture he gave at Minnesota State University. At the time, he defended his vote on a bill proposed by House Republicans to restrict the amount of Syrian refugees entering the U.S., saying there wasn't enough background information available from Syria due to an ongoing civil war for U.S. officials to properly screen refugees.

Yet Walz differed from Hagedorn's proposal to ban refugees at that time by calling for increased cooperation among nations to build coalitions and support systems for refugees across the world, thereby reducing terrorist organizations' propaganda and recruitment efforts.

"The world is looking for us to lead, and we need to be ready to do so," Walz said at the time.