On Monday, several area officials joined a growing number of elected leaders nationwide who have spoken out against the United States accepting refugees from Syria. Congressman Jeff Miller, state representatives Doug Broxson, Mike Hill, Clay Ingram, and Matt Gaetz, as well as state senators Greg Evers and Don Gaetz, have all spoken out against refugees. Escambia County Commissioner Wilson Robertson has even suggested that the county commission should adopt a resolution supporting efforts to block Syrian refugees from Escambia County.
This morning, Senator Evers took it a step further, telling Newsradio 1620 that refugees should be kept out of Florida by “any means necessary,” including by using the Florida National Guard if necessary.
Here are seven reasons why it’s a a bad idea for local officials to speak out against Syrian refugees:
1. America is a nation of refugees.
There’s a reason that “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” is engraved on the Statue of Liberty. From the Mayflower pilgrims to more recent refugees from Cuba and Vietnam, many if not most Americans are descended from refugees who have fled political, religious, or economic instability.
2. Refugees are vetted much more rigorously than typical immigrants.
From the time a refugee applies for resettlement in the United States, it takes anywhere from 18-24 months for the vetting process to be completed. First, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services considers applicants against a broad set of Terrorism-Related Inadmissibility Grounds (TRIG). If they make it through that round, applicants then must undergo an in-person interview by Department of Homeland Security officials as well as a medical exam by the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to The Economist, of the more than 750,000 refugees resettled in the United States since 2001, not a single one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges.
3. None of the extremists behind the Paris attacks were refugees.
Though some, including State Rep. Broxson, have erroneously claimed that one or more of the extremists involved in last week’s Paris attacks were refugees, investigators have confirmed that all suspects identified thus far have been European nationals. A Syrian passport found near one of the suicide bombers has been verified as a fake.
4. State officials don’t have the authority to ban refugees (and they know it).
The Constitution has long been interpreted to give the federal government broad powers when it comes to foreign affairs. The Supreme Court further clarified these powers in the 1941 case Hines v. Davidowitz:
The 1980 Refugee Act further provides the federal government with specific powers and procedures for the acceptance of refugees.
Unbelievably, State Sen. Greg Evers has suggested that Florida Governor Rick Scott should call out the national guard to stop refugees from entering the state. However, in the unlikely event that the governor decides to set up roadblocks on I-95, the president has the authority to place national guard troops under federal control.
5. Syrian refugees are fleeing ISIS violence, not trying to take part in it.
While politicians like State Rep. Mike Hill have branded Syrian refugees as “terrorists,” most of the Syrian refugees are average, working-class people, many of whom were displaced from their homes and forced to flee their country due to Islamic State violence. They’re trying to escape ISIS, not join them. In fact, the very act of leaving the so-called caliphate makes these refugees apostates in the eyes of ISIS.
Gov Scott has joined the governors that agree that we should not accept terrorist refugees without vetting! https://t.co/voXROa3KwX
— Mike Hill (@MikeHillfl) November 17, 2015
6. Turning away Syrian refugees would undermine U.S. national security.
Some politicians have argued that accepting Syrian refugees would endanger U.S. national security, but many security experts are saying otherwise. If the United States and other countries reject Syrian refugees, it will deepen divisions, reinforce ISIS’ narrative that western nations are hostile to Muslims, and likely help ISIS recruiting efforts.
7. It would also put us on the wrong side of history.
Though it seems hard to believe in hindsight, U.S. public opinion in the 1930s was strongly opposed to accepting Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, and Czechslovakia — even after the violent events of Kristallnacht in 1938. In 1939, the United States denied entry to the MS St. Louis, a German ship carrying more than 900 Jewish refugees. The ship was forced to return to Europe, where more than 250 of the passengers later died in Nazi concentration camps.