The United States' response to last week's devastating Paris attacks has been mixed. More than half of the nation's governors have said they will not accept Syrian refugees for fear that ISIS soldiers may be in their ranks. President Obama and a handful of other lawmakers have pushed back, calling for the upholding of traditional American values of sheltering those in need. Echoing that message on Tuesday, the U.S. State Department said accepting Syrian refugees was the right thing to do for a nation built on the backs of immigrants.
"It speaks to who we are as Americans and the importance of sheltering those who are escaping from other countries," the State Department's Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters, reiterating the point that Syrian refugees were fleeing the very violence some are accusing them of. "The vast majority of these refugees are victims of the very same crimes we saw in Paris, and have been living with a level of violence and suffering that is incomprehensible to us."
Toner's remarks come as the nation is mired in a debate over whether the Syrian refugees are a threat to U.S. national security or if, by shunning them, we also shun our values and play into the hands of ISIS —whose very motive, it's argued, is to fuel this kind of anti-Islam sentiment in the West to further disenfranchise the Muslims who live here.
Over the past few days, at least 26 governors have issued statements saying they would ban resettling refugees in their states. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush called for "religious tests" so that only proven Christian refugees will be allowed to enter the country. House Speaker Paul Ryan will reportedly introduce legislation this week to suspend the U.S. refugee program.
Confounded by these responses, Obama unleashed a scathing criticism of those who suggested that Syrian refugees that resettle in the U.S. were a security threat. "We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic," he added. "We don't make good decisions if it's based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks."
While fearing refugees may be a deplorable but understandable knee-jerk reaction to the events in Paris, there are much more rational, humanizing arguments for the U.S. to open its doors to the 10,000 people fleeing their war-torn country.
Cover image via AhmadSabra / iStock