In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for, you'd expect voices calling for retribution to set their sights on ISIS. Instead, U.S. governors are lining up to punish people who are running from ISIS: Syrian refugees.
Governors from 25 states — Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Idaho, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Georgia, Maine, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina and Iowa — are refusing to help Syrian refugees find homes.
Though their legal argument or authority to do so remains murky, the moral argument is even flimsier. While some governors have stood up for the refugees, the fear-mongering and refusal to uphold our values of life and liberty say a lot about where America is and what we've learned from our past.
We need to be more informed.
First of all, the United States' efforts to help the Syrian refugees is already meager, at best. Since 2011, when the Syrian War began, the United States has only taken 2,000 of the three million refugees into our country. To put that in context, Germany — a country with roughly a fourth of our population — will be taking in 500,000 Syrian refugees.
Notably, none of those 2,000 American refugees have been convicted of any domestic terrorism. In fact, since 1990, the United States has taken in two million refugees from all over the world. And of those two million refugees, not a single one has been convicted of an act of terrorism.
Believe it or not, anti-government extremists, radical environmentalists and pro-life Christians are all more likely to commit terrorism than American refugees. Our refusal to accept them is beyond reprehensible, it is illogical.
We need to understand the refugee process.
Furthermore, the process for accepting Syrian refugees is also already extremely difficult and tenuous. It takes close to two years for most Syrian refugees to get status in America, and a big part of that hold up is that, as Vox reported, "Syrian refugees have to prove they're not affiliated with a terrorist group." Claims that we are not vetting Syrian refugees are simply untrue. All potential refugees go through a multiple step process that has been so tough towards Middle Eastern refugees that activist groups have had to rally support simply to help admit more refugees than we already are.
We need to remember our history.
As The Washington Post, US Uncut and several other outlets have reported, historical polls reveal our inability to learn from the past. The twitter account HistOpinion brought to the light the response from Americans towards Jewish refugees before Nazi Germany came to power.
Now, with hindsight, we know that a different course of action could have saved thousands of lives — both Jewish and otherwise — had we been more welcoming to the refugees that desperately needed our help. With the knowledge that a Syrian refugee entering the United States has an incredibly small chance of being a terrorist, and that we have made the mistake of denying refugee status to people in need before, what will we do?
We need to remember we are different from France and Europe in general.
Much has been made of the Syrian passport found at the site of the terrorist attacks in Paris. As The Guardian pointed out, we must proceed with caution when labeling one of the terrorists a "Syrian refugee" simply because a fake Syrian passport was there. Aside from the fact that all Paris attackers identified so far have been European nationals, it's important to note that crossing borders throughout Europe is far easier than coming into the United States.
"The reality is, [ISIS] loathes that individuals are fleeing Syria for Europe. It undermines [ISIS'] message that its self-styled caliphate is a refuge," wrote Aaron Zelin, an analyst of the jihadist movement. "For those who want to blame the attacks on Paris on refugees, you might want to get your facts straight."
We need to live up to the values we preach.
Americans make a habit of taking the moral authority on issues all over the world. Often times, we are truly doing our best to be a nation that helps others. But sometimes, our promises and claims of moral superiority are without evidence. If we want to help provide freedom to those oppressed in Syria, we have a real, tangible opportunity to do so that doesn't involve dropping a single bomb or killing a single member of ISIS: we can let refugees come live in a country that is free.
UPDATE: French President Francoise Hollande announced the country will still accept an additional 30,000 Syrian refugees despite terrorist attacks.
Isaac Saul is a lead editor at A Plus. You can follow him on Twitter @Ike_Saul.
Cover image via Getty Images.