People find it hard to believe when I tell them Germany let hundreds of thousands of people into the country without any background checks. Germany is supposed to be one of the world's most efficient and bureaucratic countries, and in many respects it is.
And yet it's true -- Germany let people in without any idea who they were. Germany even let people in who obviously lied about who they were. And Germany still has no idea who thousands of these people are.
The sheer numbers of people entering Germany totally swamped a system that wasn't very effective even when dealing with smaller numbers of people. Thousands were let into Germany with obviously forged passports (g), even though this is a serious crime under German law, as it is under the law of every other country. Even when migrants arrived without any identity papers (hundreds of passports were found stuffed in the toilets of train stations (g) just across the German border), the federal agency didn't even look at the migrants' cellphones (g).
To this day, the precise identity of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants is still unknown. Only now a year and a half after they arrived, have all migrants been fingerprinted. The process has revealed hundreds of cases of migrants registering multiple times in different German cities (g) with different identities to obtain additional social welfare benefits -- the fraud is estimated to have cost taxpayers millions of Euros.
Contrast this with the process for resettling Syrian refugees in the United States:
...I received a call from the United Nations asking if my family would like to resettle somewhere else. Based on our documents, stories and circumstances — our large family, five girls, my husband’s potential as a healthy worker — we had been deemed eligible to apply for refugee status.
We could not return home to Syria. We could not continue living on the brink of starvation in Lebanon. A safe option was available: We began the application process to come to the United States.
The process started with a series of meetings with U.S. government representatives — at least five in-person interviews with each of us and countless phone conversations. The questions were very detailed: about my family, my friends, how I spent my time. The interviewers often knew the answers to the questions before they asked them. They asked about my life going back to the day I was born; they even knew the location of the hospital. My story is my story, so I knew that the details would match their information. But I was stunned by the level of scrutiny and the length of the process.
Each member of the family told their story, and those stories had to be consistent with interviews given by other people who knew us. If our answers didn’t match information U.S. officials already had, or if they couldn’t validate our information, we didn’t progress to the next step. I had only a glimmer of hope that this would work — and that we could have a safe life for my daughters. We lived on that hope.....
Now my daughters, who previously spoke no English, are in school, and my husband has a good job as a driver for a clothing company. My biggest dream is for them to have a good education and good careers, and for us to be part of this society: to learn the language, to do something productive, to integrate. That’s exactly what Trump believes is impossible.
The irony is that Trump thinks the U.S. system for vetting refugees is lax, and he's wrong. The country that is actually making the mistakes he thinks the U.S. is making is Germany. It's Germany, not the U.S., which ignored its citizens' legitimate interest in known who is entering their country.
Trump notoriously referred to Merkel's decision to open the borders as a 'catastrophic mistake'. That may be one of the the only things I agree with him on.