Strengthening our resolve

Allowing the Paris attacks to derail our aid to refugees would be tragic

Several state governors and a few GOP presidential candidates responded to the attacks in Paris with knee-jerk xenophobia, pandering to their base by calling for the United States to close its doors to the tiny number of refugees President Obama has agreed can resettle here.

Perhaps the most egregious example is Sen. Ted Cruz’s idea of allowing only Christian refugees to enter the country. It’s almost unfathomable that a presidential candidate would eschew the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion.

The ostensible concern is that accepting Muslim refugees would put Americans at risk; that terrorists would be let into the country. It’s an emotional, fear-based reaction that perpetuates an ignorant stereotype that all Muslims are terrorists. It must not be allowed to persist.

All of this is not to mention that there’s an extensive screening process required for asylum seekers. It first involves vetting by the United Nations before the United States Department of Homeland Security takes over, with background checks and interviews. It’s not exactly a simple process. In fact, it takes some 18 months or longer to complete. Moreover, the president has committed to taking in just 10,000 refugees next year, a largely symbolic gesture considering that millions of refugees are in need and that the bulk of them will be absorbed by European nations.

The shameful and ignorant displays by Cruz and company to score political points with their supporters come at the expense of people who have been displaced and terrorized and have given up everything in search of a better life for themselves and their families. The Syrian people in particular have seen unspeakable atrocities since the Arab Spring in 2011; more than 250,000 have died.

This is a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.

Americans must think about the message it would send should the United States turn its back on these people. Are we a nation of good will or one that gives into fear? Back in September, we wrote that America must not look away from this crisis. What has happened in Paris doesn’t change that.