I won’t lie: I am a big Elmo fan.
Elmo keeps my 15-month-old daughter captivated and content when she is melting down in a car ride two hours from home. Elmo lets me brush her hair or trim her nails. Elmo lets me have a second cup of coffee in peace.
We rarely put the TV on in my house but “Elmo’s World” is a top pick. So I can see the popular draw when CNN held a Facebook live panel earlier this week that included Sherrie Westin from Sesame Workshop, David Miliband from the International Rescue Committee, and the lovable Elmo puppet.
While “Sesame Street” and company started out with every intention of highlighting and educating viewers about the situation of child refugees, the topic quickly steered into politics.
“It’s worth saying, perhaps especially today, this country, the U.S., receives very few refugees and there’s a lot of fear and loathing being put out,” Miliband said on the same day that the Supreme Court said it would hear the federal government’s appeal of President Donald Trump’s so-called travel ban.
“Countries like Jordan—a million refugees—like Uganda, where I’ve just been—a million refugees. People there see the refugees as their brothers and sisters, not as terrorists coming to get them,” Miliband adds.
Miliband’s statements here are incredibly misleading, from several perspectives. First, the United States admitted a record number of refugees into the country last year, nearly half of them Muslim refugees.
In its lawful executive order, the Trump administration capped the number of refugees admitted to this country at 50,000 during fiscal year 2017—a number not much different than the Bush administration’s average or even the Obama administration’s admittance in the early years.
Second, given the terror attacks in Europe in the past few years by radicalized Islamist terrorists, it would be negligent for the United States not to consider effective integration and assimilation methods when considering refugee in-flows.
“Because of the scale of numbers coming into Europe, it’s almost impossible for any of the receiving countries to begin to deal with their assimilation and integration issues in anything like a responsible way,” Heritage Foundation fellow Robin Simcox told Fox News earlier this month. He added:
In Germany alone, you’ve had almost 2 million people come into the country in two years. I think any country in the world would struggle with that amount of flow. But when you have some of these European countries, which are very uncertain about identity issues, have a sense of guilt about colonial past—perceived or otherwise—then that just makes it even more difficult.
However, none of those arguments in the refugee debate were mentioned during the CNN panel with Elmo. I’m sure many families feel that they could do with less overt politicization in children’s TV programming and more Elmo giggles.