The Tennessean's Op-Ed 'Freelance Writer' Has a More Problematic Résumé



In an editorial posted Wednesday over at The Tennessean's website, one Don Barnett grouches about immigrants. Here's a bit to give you a sense:

More refugees mean more government services, since the contractors assist the refugees for only three months or less in the vast majority of cases. Most refugees go into TennCare for varying periods of time. TennCare and other welfare programs such as Families First are used by refugees at much higher than average rates and are partially supported by state taxpayer dollars.

Refugee resettlement is very profitable for the nonprofits. There is a reason why refugee resettlement is Tennessee Catholic Charities’ biggest mission. All of its non-refugee social services are smaller, less lucrative and almost all are shrinking from year to year. Ironically, its national motto is: Working to Reduce Poverty in America.

Yes, let's all laugh at the idea of anything being profitable for nonprofits. Oh, Don Barnett, who are you to think that there's great money to be made in refugees? The bio up at The Tennessean says, "Don Barnett is an information technology professional and freelance writer in Brentwood."

And here's where it gets interesting. Because that's not all Don Barnett is. No, Don Barnett has a whole other side to him that's relevant when you're considering his thoughts on immigration, broadly, and Catholic Charities, specifically. Here, also, is Don Barnett, as reported by the website American Rattlesnake:

One of the most harmful aspects of our nation’s current immigration policy is its manifold refugee resettlement programs, the disastrous consequences of which have been amply documented on this website. That’s why the speech Don Barnett, currently a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and expert on refugee resettlement in the United States, delivered to the Penn Club on Tuesday night is so crucial to understanding the scale of the problem faced by small towns and communities throughout America. A former employee of the United States Information Agency within the U.S. State Department, he spent an extensive part of his career working in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, which produced most of the refugees brought to the United States during the Cold War Era.

Funny how The Tennessean said nothing about Barnett's tenure at the Center for Immigration Studies, even though, according to their own website, he's still there. But let's go back to that year-old story at American Rattlesnake, just to get a fuller picture of Barnett's views on immigration, Catholic Charities, and Nashville:

One very dispirited audience member, during the question and answer session at the end of Mr. Barnett’s speech, asked if there was anything positive to report amid the welter of very depressing information he had conveyed during the course of his hour-long presentation. Although Barnett conceded that the refugee problem was going to be with us for many years to come, he assured the questioner that there were positive developments to report. Here he cited the response of his own city, Nashville, Tennessee, which has rebelled against the increased costs-economically, socially, and culturally-refugee resettlement has imposed upon ordinary citizens during one of the most prolonged economic crises in American history. In the case of Nashville-and the state of Tennessee-the refugees being dumped upon American taxpayers are Kurds. The fact that Kurds already have a prosperous, fully-functioning autonomous land in which to live-one that is almost paradisaical in nature if we’re to go by the promotional material-has not stopped the State Department from planting thousands of them in the places like Davidson County.

Yet the good people of the Volunteer State have fought back, and just this past June-with the help of the Tennessee Eagle Forum and Act for America-compelled their state legislature to enact the Tennessee Refugee Absorptive Capacity Act. Although watered down after ferocious lobbying from the usual suspects-led by Catholic Charities-it represents a distinctive achievement in the fight to reject refugee resettlement, which impacts every state and locality in the United States. This is demonstrative proof that citizen activism, if focused, can achieve results, and serves as an incentive for anyone who might believe that this is an insoluble problem. The challenge ahead might be difficult, but it is not impossible.

Now, is it possible, somehow, that American Rattlesnake is mischaracterizing Barnett's speech and he didn't talk about the Kurds like they've been dumped on us ordinary citizens who didn't want them and don't welcome them? I guess anything is possible. But if you take a look at the Center for Immigration Studies website, you'll find it full of language all about how "we" have a right to exclude people who are not like "us." For instance:

Well, because society (regardless of its perhaps checkered history) is a fundamental and obvious reality, and not acknowledging it is a grotesque lack of basic realism. People form community. There is no way to ignore this natural and universal human phenomenon. Thus, passing mention is made in every statement on immigration by the leadership of Roman Catholic Church. But, before the last sounds of such lip-service are whispered, another supposed truth is more loudly proclaimed, overshadowing society into non-existence, or at least relegating society into a camp of fearful existence, where it is plagued by guilt for daring to think that it might be able to manage its own distinct existence, especially if such management entails controlling its membership (which it can be argued, is actually an option so not to overshadow its vulnerable members).

I won't bore you with more examples. But a man who is associated with a think tank devoted to finding ways to keep "our" country more like "us" and where they get to say who "we" are, and who gives speeches and talks about how we've been burdened by people who have proven themselves to be pretty dang ordinary members of our society, isn't just a "freelance writer." He's an activist with a very specific agenda.

Either The Tennessean failed because they didn't bother to Google the man before they ran his piece, or they failed because they knew this about him and didn't tell their readers. But their readers have a right to know that they're not just hearing from Joe Blow in Brentwood. They're hearing from a guy who's devoted to keeping the United States a certain way and whose opposition to Catholic Charities comes not from them somehow bilking taxpayers out of money, but because they don't share his views that we'd be better off if we didn't help people who need it.

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