Right Wing Use Syrian Crises For Anti-Immigration Fearmongering

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Gary Herbert                                                                         


Both chambers of Congress are hurtling towards votes on legislation designed to halt the resettlement of refugees from war-torn Syria.

The choice confronting lawmakers is stark – between standing up for American values or standing with Donald Trump and others spreading lies and fanning the flames of intolerance, xenophobia, and fear.

We can and must protect Americans and American values.  America has a proud history as a nation of freedom, one that has a long tradition of being a beacon of hope for refugees.  We cannot turn our back on our own history or values, nor should not turn our back on people fleeing unspeakable violence.

Some elected officials of both parties deserve particular praise for standing up for American values, despite intense levels of misinformation from the right:

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA): Rep. Moulton said, “Shutting the door on the very people who ISIS is trying to target is playing right into the enemy’s hands … It’s un-American, it’s immoral, and it’s not going to lead to the defeat of ISIS.”  As the Boston Globe reports, Rep. Moulton has lived up to his stated values on refugee resettlement issues – in fact, he opened his home to an Iraqi refugee who had served as a translator for Moulton during one of the congressman’s tours of Iraq.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV):  As Sen. Reid tweeted from a speech on the Senate floor: “We are America. We come to the defense of the defenseless. We come to the aid of those in need. And right now, we are needed.”

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH): Sen. Brown believes the country should continue resettling Syrians fleeing violence, stating, “The only harder way to get here than through the way we have been screening and admitting Syrian refugees and others from the Middle East … is to swim across the Atlantic.”Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM): Sen. Heinrich added a personal reflection to underscore his commitment to protecting refugees, saying: “I am grateful that when my father and grandparents fled Germany in the years leading up to World War II, that our country chose to see them for what they were, enthusiastic American immigrants seeking to escape the dangerous politics gripping their former nation …  Had this brand of twisted anti-immigrant logic been applied to them, I can only wonder how very different my life would be today.  Let’s remember that the enemy in the current scenario is ISIS, not the refugees who flee from their destruction.  We simply will not have the moral standing as a nation to lead in this international crisis if we ignore those who have lost everything at the hands of these barbaric terrorists.”

Governor Gary Herbert (R-UT): Governor Herbert is the lone Republican governor to continue welcoming Syrian refugees to his state.  A spokesperson for Gov. Herbert said in a statement, “Utahns are well known for our compassion for those who are fleeing the violence in their homeland, and we will work to do all we can to ease their suffering without compromising public safety."Governor Dannel Malloy (D-CT): After Indiana’s Governor Mike Pence diverted a family of Syrian refugees scheduled for resettling in his state, Connecticut Governor Malloy welcomed the family to his state, noting: “It is the right thing, the humane thing to do … Quite frankly, if you believe in God, it’s the morally correct thing to do.”

In contrast, other elected officials of both parties are caving to – or further stoking – fears:

Roanoke, VA Mayor David Bowers (D): Mayor Bowers has faced a barrage of criticism for justifying his announced opposition to resettling Syrian refugees in Roanoke by citing the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II: “President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor … and it appears that the threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”

Rhode Island State Senator Elaine Morgan (R): Senator Morgan justified her opposition to resettling Syrian refugees by stating in an email, “t]he Muslim religion and philosophy is to murder, rape, and decapitate anyone is a non-Muslim.”  She added that if the U.S. did accept Syrian refugees, “we should set up refugee camp to keep them segregated from our populous [sic].”

Tennessee State House Member Glen Casada (R): Casada, the House Republican Caucus Chairman, said: “We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can.”

Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ): Gov. Christie expressed opposition to even taking in Syrian orphan children, telling Hugh Hewitt’s radio show: “The fact is that we need appropriate vetting, and I don’t think orphans under five are being, you know, should be admitted into the United States at this point … We need to put the safety and security of the American people first.”

Senator David Vitter (R-LA): Senator Vitter, ahead of Saturday’s election, is trying to whip up fears and resentments about Syrian refugees in a particularly vicious manner – including spreading lies about “missing” refugees in the state.

Concluded Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice, “The rhetoric against immigrants and the world’s most vulnerable—refugees—would make this country almost unrecognizable to me if it weren’t for the many good people standing up for our values.  We need to keep our nation open to people fleeing war, terrorism, and abuse—those are the principles we were founded on, and they are strong principles.  We can protect our country and protect refugees.”    

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

America's Voice -- Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform


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