President Barack Obama wants to allow up to 10,000 Syrian refugees to enter the United States. We are a compassionate, caring people. As a nation of immigrants, we would not be true to our values if we closed our doors to the horrors faced by Syrian refugees.
We can't be blamed for worrying that terrorists could take advantage this process to slip into the United States, and we would be foolish not to ensure that our security standards were adequate. But acknowledging our fears does not mean denying our humanity. Anne Frank was a refugee denied entrance to the United States.
Fifteen major Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, came out in opposition to "any legislative proposals that aim to halt U.S. resettlement efforts or restrict funding for any groups of refugees, include Syrian refugees." They wrote:
[The] devastating attacks in Paris and Beirut are examples of the brutal violence that Syrian refugees are fleeing. We are disheartened to see many U.S. politicians citing these tragic events as a reason to put safe haven further out of reach for refugees. At this critical moment, when there are more refugees and displaced persons than at any time since World War II, we must protect refugees and asylum seekers, not scapegoat them.
The U.S. government has extensive security measures in place to distinguish between those fleeing violence and those seeking to commit it. In fact, refugees are the most thoroughly vetted of all types of immigrants entering the country. Security is an important part of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, as it must be, but so is compassion.
Jews who happen to agree for a host of ostensibly rational reasons that Syrian refugees should be denied entry will inevitably have to deal with cognitive dissonance. They will have to convince themselves that their position does not equate them with the bigots who refused to allow the brothers and sisters of their own parents and grandparents to escape the Nazi inferno. And they will try to repress the possibility that they might someday come to regret their current position, if and when it turns out that Syrian refugees were also massacred in the millions.
President Obama has proposed admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees following an 18-month vetting process with tight screening procedures and a focus on admitting the most vulnerable Syrians. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) is right: We do not have to choose between security and compassion. Decide for yourself if our current screening procedures are stringent enough.
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said last week:
While parts of today's refugee crisis are difficult to compare with the time when the St. Louis approached our shores, our fundamental choice is the same. Instead of using the mourning in France to deny opportunity to thousands of innocent people, we should recall the most famous gift we received from the French -- the Statue of Liberty, with the famous inscription recognizing America as a place that welcomes "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
Hillary Clinton delivered a major foreign policy speech on Thursday, saying, "We cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and our humanitarian obligations. Turning away orphans, applying religious tests, discriminating against Muslims, slamming the door on every Syrian refugee ... that is just not who we are. We are better than that."
Or maybe not. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner demanded that Syrian refugees be turned away from Illinois (even though he lacks the authority to do so). Rauner's policy was called a "sop to the xenophobes and paranoiacs among us." Rep. Luis Guitierrez (D-IL) called Rauner's decision "despicable and cowardly."
Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) demanded "100% certainty" in a letter he co-authored with several other Republican congressmen. That's impossible. Should we ban all European nationals from coming to the U.S.? After all, of the so-far identified Paris terrorists, all were European nationals and none were Syrian refugees. President Obama said he would veto the bill passed by the House on Thursday.
We are not fighting a war against radical Islam. Steve Benen explains that "We're targeting ISIS, not extremist members of a religion with 1.2 billion people, just as we fought Nazis, not European extremists." Even George W. Bush understood that "We ought to avoid the language of religion. Whenever they hear 'Islamic extremism, Islamic jihad, Islamic fundamentalism,' they perceive it as a sort of an attack on their faith." See for yourself the different language used by President Bush and the today's Republican candidates.
Brian Beutler explains that "Nobody disputes that the perpetrators of the attacks in France were Muslim, but insisting on a rote connection between jihadis and the religion they claim makes it harder for the U.S. to enlist non-jihadi Muslims into the fight against terrorism."
Read why Republicans want President Obama to denounce "radical Islam"--and why he won't do it.
Palestinian terrorists murdered Ezra Schwartz. American teenager Ezra Schwartz was murdered by Palestinian terrorists last week. Obama administration spokesman John Kirby said "we extend our deepest condolences to the victim's family, friends, and community as well as the family and friends of the four other people killed in yesterday's tragic events ... We continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms these outrageous terrorist attacks."