[This post has been updated below.]
The flow of thousands upon thousands of Syrian refugees escaping violent extremism and war-like conditions in their country has been in the news for months. Many Michiganders were relieved to see Governor Rick Snyder extend the welcome mat to those escaping oppression and violence. However, after the recent terrorist attack in Paris, Gov. Snyder has joined his cowardly Republican colleagues in Arkansas, Indiana, Texas, and Alabama and is now refusing to let Syrian refugees to come to Michigan. “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Gov. Snyder said. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
In other words: terrorism works.
The refugees he is turning away are running from the same sort of threats to their lives as the people of Paris experienced. As one refugee named Ghaled put it, “What’s happening to them is happening every day in Syria, 100 times per day for five years, so we know what that means”. It’s something they live with every day. Refusing to allow these beleaguered and frightened people to come to our state will have two impacts. First, is validates terrorism as a tactic, making sure it will continue to be used because, frankly, it’s working. It means that we have capitulated to their tactic of using fear and distrust and terror, afraid to help those in most desperate need because of the actions of a handful of madmen.
Second, it simply sows the seeds of hatred and resentment in those who might otherwise have seen us a saviors, willing to be there for them in their time of need.
In both cases, the result is the same: the technique of terrorism wins the day and bolsters the strength of those who use it.
In short, thanks to the cowardice of the Republicans, the terrorists have won. So much for American exceptionalism.
Thankfully, President Obama isn’t as afraid as the Republicans in this country who are calling for a lockdown of our borders. He realizes that it’s important to help the refugees, to show that we aren’t going to live in fear of the terrorists, and that the seeds of goodwill he and his administration are sowing will pay dividends into the future. He rightfully called it “a betrayal of our values”.
He went on to add:
The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism; they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. We do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.
The calls for war coming from the Republicans echo the calls after September 11th, 2001. And the response to that terrorist attack was a crucial element in the rise of ISIS. We created the monster we face today through war against the wrong people, fueling their hatred and mania.
The governors of Michigan, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, and Indiana don’t have the courage of our president. Their lack of courage and compassion in the face of adversity is in striking contrast to the measured, thoughtful, intelligent response of President Obama. They are caving in to the most craven warhawks in their party and our country is worse off now because of it. Given the opportunity to do the right thing, they chose the coward’s response instead of showing leadership.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf gives them all a lesson in leadership in statement released by his office this morning (emphasis added):
While details are still emerging regarding the individuals responsible for the heinous attacks in Paris, all of those responsible committed atrocious acts and must be brought to justice. We must not lose sight of the fact that families leaving Syria are trying to escape the same violence and unimaginable terror that took place in Paris and Beirut.
To assist the settlement of families fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the Federal Government coordinates with local charitable organizations in Pennsylvania and other states.
Pennsylvania will continue working with the Federal Government to ensure that all individuals have gone through the proper screening process.
Governor Wolf wants Pennsylvania to continue to build on its rich history of accepting immigrants and refugees from around the world but he is also committed to protecting Pennsylvanians and will work with the Federal Government to ensure it is taking every precaution necessary in screening those families coming into the country.
Adding… Making westerners afraid of the refugees is EXACTLY what ISIS wants. As a Buzzfeed piece titled “Paris Attacks Stoke Fears Of Refugees, And That’s What ISIS Wants” makes clear, ISIS leaders have been engaging in an effort to keep people from fleeing:
ISIS has ratcheted up its propaganda against anyone fleeing the conflict in Iraq and Syria of late — calling those who leave traitors and imploring others to stay and help to build their so-called caliphate. At the same time, it has vowed to make it impossible for Muslims to live peacefully in the West, threatening to destroy what it calls a “gray zone” of coexistence.
News that the attacker may have traveled along a common refugee route — which sees refugees venture from Turkey to Greece by boat before heading deeper into Europe — also underlines a vexing security threat. It would show that ISIS can take advantage of the chaos and suffering of one of the largest human migrations in modern times to make its local propaganda resonate, and also to help it carry out international attacks.
A passport found near one of the terrorists who blew himself up seemed to indicate that he came in as a Syrian refugee. However, one state official has suggested that it was a fake passport that was meant to be found in order to create fear of refugees:
Grief, alarm and resolve spread across Europe on Saturday as officials raced to piece together information on the seven attackers. Officials said one was a young Frenchman known to the authorities. In addition, a Syrian passport found near the body of another attacker was linked to a man who entered the European Union through a Greek island last month.
A U.S. intelligence official told CBS News that a name and picture were recovered from the Syrian passport and the individual was not known to intelligence officials.
However, a U.S. intelligence official told CBS News the Syrian passport might be fake. The official said the passport did not contain the correct numbers for a legitimate Syrian passport and the picture did not match the name.
And then there’s this:
These outrageous attacks are the same strategy that ISIS's predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq, used to trigger civil war between Sunnis & Shias.
— Murtaza Hussain (@MazMHussain) November 14, 2015
A couple of things to keep in mind while Republicans are wetting their pants.
UPDATE: Now other Governors – all Republicans – have jumped on the bandwagon in Mississippi, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Illinois, Arizona, and Wisconsin.
UPDATE 2: Turns out there is a small problem for these terrified Republican governors: what they are proposing is illegal:
The problem for Jindal, Abbott and the other governors opposed to admitting refugees, however, is that there is no lawful means that permits a state government to dictate immigration policy to the president in this way. As the Supreme Court explained in Hines v. Davidowitz, “the supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.” States do not get to overrule the federal government on matters such as this one.
Just in case there is any doubt, President Obama has explicit statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the president may admit refugees who face “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” into the United States, and the president’s power to do so is particularly robust if they determine that an “unforeseen emergency refugee situation” such as the Syrian refugee crisis exists.
This power to admit refugees fits within the scheme of “broad discretion exercised by immigration officials” that the Supreme Court recognized in its most recent major immigration case, Arizona v. United States. Indeed, in describing the executive branch’s broad authority to make discretionary calls regarding immigration matters, Arizona seemed to explicitly contemplate the circumstances that face President Obama today. The United States may wish to allow a foreign national to remain within its borders, the Court explained, because the individual’s home nation “may be mired in civil war, complicit in political persecution, or enduring conditions that create a real risk that the alien or his family will be harmed upon return.”
UPDATE 3: MoveOn.org now has a petition urging Gov. Snyder to change his position. You can sign it HERE.
UPDATE 4: Sadly, Democratic New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan has joined the courageous Republicans in saying she doesn’t support the USA continuing to accept refugees from Syria (though she appears to have stopped short of saying her state will not accept them.)
UPDATE 5: Congressional Republicans are now threatening to shut down the federal government over funding for Syrian refugee resettlement.