We are told 98 percent of Syrian refugees who will come to America are widows, orphans or children with mothers whose husbands have been killed. Those are heartbreaking statistics. If anybody in this world’s brutal history deserves a safe haven, it’s these people who have fled the barbarous brutality of both ISIS and Syria tyrant Bashir al-Assad.
This coming year, about 10,000 Syrian refugees are set to come to America, after a rigorous vetting process. We are told only 2 percent of them will be men – that’s about 200 men. As we know all too well in recent weeks, it took only eight ISIS sympathizers – men – to perpetrate the massacres in Paris. Is it any wonder so many Americans are nervous about talk of refugees?
In a recent poll, 56 percent of Americans said they are against letting Syrian refugees into this country. More than 30 governors have said they do not want those kinds of refugees in their states. Many of those governors and legislators have been accused of playing politics with the issue, of being cruel, of lacking compassion. While that may be true in some cases, in most cases such concerns are valid. One of the Paris attackers, apparently, had a fake Syrian passport and entered Europe hidden among the wave of legitimate refugees. Why shouldn’t Americans express trepidations?
We are told again and again the vetting process is extremely thorough, that the process goes through double- and triple-checks before anyone is allowed to enter the United States. It takes 18 months to two years to background-check a refugee before he or she is allowed to enter America. Legislators, governors and others want to be sure that vetting process is ironclad and nobody can slip through the cracks. And who can blame them?
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, which was a gift from the French people to America, has a welcome plaque that reads, in part, “Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.”
Thanks to that American creed, this country has been strengthened by the contributions from waves of immigrants. Such infusions of new people, new ideas, new cultures have always kept this nation from growing sclerotic, thus ensuring an ongoing dynamism that is the envy of the world. It’s been a messy – sometimes ugly violent assimilation – but one way or another it’s worked.
Still, the current fears of Americans are understandable, the way fears of ebola were understandable a couple years ago. These days, with terrorist butchers on the loose, we live in an Age of Fear. Those who have concerns make the case these refugees are not like the ones of the past, the millions who came from Europe in the 19th Century, for example. Because of the devious viciousness of ISIS, it’s not unreasonable to assume some of these terrorists would – or at least try to – sneak their way to our shores posing as refugees. That is why the vetting process must be scrupulous, with follow-ups on refugees who are allowed to be here.
And let’s not forget, aside from the 9/11 horrors, the massacres in this country have been perpetrated by home-grown monsters, not by refugee killers. There seems to be no end to these gun-crazed murderers here, there and everywhere. We must be on guard here in our own backyards, not just over there. Gun-safety laws here at home would be a start.
In the meantime, it would be cruel and downright un-American to turn our backs on these refugees who have endured such pain we cannot even imagine.
Should we welcome these suffering people? Absolutely. Should they be vetted carefully? Yes.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.
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