Speaking to reporters Monday in Antalya, Turkey, President Obama vowed to continue supporting the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States, following the deadly Paris terrorist attacks. Noting that the refugees are trying to escape the violence, Obama brushed aside fear mongering and he rejected imposing religious litmus tests on the incoming refugees.
The president said refugees would be subjected to rigorous screening, but that we must be willing to let them come to America to seek haven. The president stated:
Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.
President Obama also took an implicit jab at Texas Senator Ted Cruz, for suggesting that only Christian Syrians be admitted to the United States. Obama argued:
And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful. That’s not American, that’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.
Unfortunately, Republicans do want to put religious tests on our compassion. Senator Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush want to reserve our compassion for Christians only. Furthermore, four GOP Governors — Robert Huntley (AL), Asa Hutchison (AR), Rick Snyder (MI) and Greg Abbott (TX) — are refusing to accept Syrian refugees. Abbott even went so far as to write a letter to the president, demanding that he “halt plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States”.
The Paris terror attacks have generated a lot of fear in the United States, and some of that fear is understandable. However, that fear should never get so out of hand that it becomes xenophobic hysteria. The United States does not need to slam the door on people escaping violence, just because we are paralyzed by fear, or because cynical politicians think they can exploit our fears to win votes.
Allowing refugees to escape a region riddled with violence, in order to begin a new life, is something American has done in the past, and something the nation should continue to do today. President Obama’s decision not to slam America’s doors on Syrian refugees is a decision that lives up to the promise of America rather than succumbing to our deepest fears. As such, it is a decision that should be applauded. The United States should continue to screen refugees, and where no red flags are raised, allow them to resettle here.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.