MIDLAND, MI -- A news team from a major Japanese television station Friday visited the studios of Midland Community Television at the Grace A. Dow Library in Midland to interview Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, regarding his comments -- reported worldwide two months ago -- urging Gov. Rick Snyder to take a more cautious approach to bringing Syrian refugees to Michigan in the wake of the Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris.
"I simply voiced the public safety and national security concerns I know are shared by many mid-Michigan residents it's my duty to represent," Glenn said of the interview. "It turns out those concerns caught the attention of -- and, not surprisingly, are shared by -- citizens of peaceful countries around the world, including Japan."
Glenn said the TV Tokyo news crew's interpreter told him that the station's report -- expected to air in Japan on Jan. 14th -- will focus on the Japanese people's worry that their culture, which has spanned millennia and is more homogeneous than in the U.S., will be negatively affected if Syrian and other Islamic refugees, including potential terrorists, seek to relocate there.
"They told me it's often said in Japan that if the U.S. sneezes, Japan catches a cold, so their intention is to report what we're experiencing here as a predictor of the challenges they aren't yet facing but fear they may in the near future," Glenn said.
TV Tokyo traveled to Midland in response to media reports of a public statement by Glenn, directed to Snyder, the day after the Nov. 13th Paris attacks. "I respectfully urge the governor to act cautiously and conservatively," Glenn said, "to fulfill what in the sad reality of today's world is the most fundamental responsibility of state government, to protect the public safety of our families and our communities here at home. We should not rush to offer an open door to the high-risk importation of individuals from a known hotbed of Islamic extremism."
A Google search indicates that Glenn's comments were reported by news media nationwide and across the globe, from the London Daily Mail to the Times of Israel and in the Japan Times.
In the statement, Glenn disputed assurances that Syrian refugees can be safely vetted to block terrorist threats, citing public statements by FBI director James Comey and U.S. House Counter-Terrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee chairman Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who said the U.S. has no databases with which to identify and block entry to the U.S. by ISIS, Al Qaeda, or other Islamic terrorists posing as Syrian refugees.
Glenn said in the statement that changes in state immigration or refugee policy should include the Legislature rather than be decided solely by Snyder. He also said no change in those policies should occur "without a thorough and responsible review in advance of its likely impact on public safety and security, as well as the financial and social burden borne by taxpayers for the likely greater demand on law enforcement, social services, and welfare and other public benefits programs." (See full statement: http://goo.gl/L20zWs )
The day after Glenn called on the governor to act, he did. The Associated Press reported that "Snyder said in a statement Sunday that the state is postponing efforts to accept refugees until federal officials fully review security clearances and procedures. He added...that Michigan’s 'first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.'" The Washington Post reported Nov. 16th that Snyder's "reversal follows a statement from Michigan state Rep. Gary Glenn, also a Republican." https://goo.gl/66A3sO
Within a week, thirty U.S. governors -- Democratic and Republican -- followed Snyder's lead in publicly announcing they would slow or block entirely the relocation of Syrian refugees to their states.
Glenn said in the weeks since, media reports have further validated his concerns: a Syrian refugee was arrested in the U.S. for giving material aid to ISIS, five Syrians attempting to travel to the U.S. with fake passports were detained in Honduras, eight more Syrians were detained attempting to cross illegally into the U.S. at the Mexican border, and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, announced that the U.S. has classified evidence that ISIS has specifically targeted the Syrian refugee program as a possible means of smuggling terrorists into the country.
Glenn noted a point of personal family history, and a hopeful irony, in being interviewed about a threat to U.S. national security by a television crew from Japan. The walls of Glenn's legislative office in Lansing hold memorabilia and photographs of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, which drew the U.S. into World War II, and where Glenn's father, then a 19-year old U.S. Marine, fought and survived the attack.
"People with a culture just as foreign to ours at the time, just one generation ago, were mortal enemies of the U.S., and today are among our closest friends and allies," Glenn said. "We all pray the day comes soon when those who claim Islam as the motivation for their brutality and terror are also willing to live and let others live in peace. Until then, it must remain the first and highest duty of our federal and state governments to keep the people of Michigan and our families, our neighborhoods, and our communities safe from such violence."