Governors’ responses show dark side of humanity


To the governors of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming: Shame on you.

In the days following the Paris terrorist attacks of Nov. 13, the world has seen humanity at its best.  Thousands, if not millions, flooded social media with statements of support and prayer.  World leaders at the G20 summit held a moment of silence, while sporting games, ranging from international soccer to the WWE to the NFL, followed suit.  France saw its citizens unite in support, as twitter hashtags were used to offer safe places to sleep for people on the streets, and many moments of beautiful love toward Muslims and refugees have been exhibited, the world over.

Sadly, though, in the days following the Paris terrorist attacks of Nov. 13, the world has also seen humanity at its worst, and America at its worst.

To the governors listed above, again: Shame on you.

In the days since Nov. 13, these 26 governors have made official statements declaring that their state will seek all legal recourses available, to bar the settling of Syrian refugees; they have written the State Department, asking to not have any refuges sent their way; or they have simply stated that they were not in support of resettlement.

What these governors are doing is legally absurd, logically inaccurate and morally horrifying.  To begin with, state governors, or even state governments, have no ground to bar the federal government from admitting certain groups of people.

In terms of legal specifications, two acts and decisions are important. In the 1941 case of Hines v. Davidowitz, Justice Hugo Black wrote: “When the national government by treaty or statute has established rules and regulations touching the rights, privileges, obligations or burdens of aliens as such [i.e. refugees], the treaty or statute is the supreme law of the land … No state can add to or take from the force and effect of such treaty or statute” (parenthetical added by writer).

Furthermore, under the Refugee Act of 1980, it is the president who may admit those facing “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Unfortunately, though, state governors can allocate or refuse funds in such a way that it would prevent refugees from accessing education-, living- and work-related aid.  Furthermore, while attempting to bar Syrian refugees would likely result in discrimination suits, states can simply inform the government that they do not have the capacity to accept any refugees.  Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, where this strategy is being employed: Shame on you.

With the exception of Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, all have officially cited security concerns as the motivation behind their opposition. Hence, they are looking for solutions in the wrong areas.

To enter the U.S. as a refugee, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees first verifies that the refugee has a relative in America or that the U.S. makes the most sense for resettlement. Then, screenings are performed by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center and the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security.  A final state department interview verifies that the applicant is, indeed, a refugee in need.  The process usually takes 18-24 months.

According to Time, “Officials say it’s the most intensive vetting process of any group that arrives in the U.S.,” and the UN screening alone involves “in-depth refugee interviews, home country reference checks and biological screenings, such as iris scans. Military combatants are weeded out.”

To enter the U.S. as a tourist, on the other hand, one must simply fill out a nonimmigrant visa application form, form DS-160, and then schedule one interview at an American consulate, where a passport, the DS-160, a photo, and a fee are all processed.

There are clearly easier ways to enter this country for a human wishing to cause harm, yet no one is advocating that we increase security measure there, as well.

What U.S. governors are doing is at its best racist, and at its worst, inhumane and tragic – a clear signal to the world that our elected leaders cannot separate thousands of ordinary humans from a twisted and violent few who share similar national origins or faiths (although no one can truly consider the faith that ISIS practices as true Islam).

What has been the most horrifying, though, has been the response from several presidential candidates.  Recently, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stated, “There are a lot of Christians in Syria that have no place now …  They’ll be either executed or imprisoned, either by Assad or by ISIS. And I think we should have — we should focus our efforts as it relates to the Christians that are being slaughtered.”

Any teenager with Internet access can find scores of documentation detailing how Muslims are also being slaughtered, and there is no conceivable way that Bush is not aware of this.  By saying that America should only accept Christians, he is saying that not only should we turn a blind eye to thousands facing bombs, bullets, chemical weapons and scores of other horrors that we can not even imagine, but that we inherently believe that someone’s religion should be the dividing line of who we extend our care and our hands to.

While the French president, only days after his nation was attacked, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to continue helping refugees, America began to shut its doors.

To everyone who has publically and legally contributed to that: Shame on you.

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