Alabama & Michigan Barring Refugees After The Paris Attacks Is Precisely The Wrong Response
One of the men involved with the attacks in Paris allegedly claimed to be Syrian, obtained an emergency passport given to refugees, and entered the European Union in October. As a result, the attacks in Paris have not only been used as a justification to demonize Muslims, but also all refugees. On Monday, the governors of Alabama and Michigan said that their states wouldn't shelter refugees because of the attacks. And that fear-driven response is exactly the reaction the Islamic State has been hoping to inspire in Western nations.
Alabama Gov. Robert J. Bentley, a Republican, said that he would "not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way." Alabama hasn't sheltered any Syrian refugees, and the governor said that he's keeping tabs on the state's single refugee processing center.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, also a Republican, felt the same. He said Monday that Michigan would no longer accept refugees, and suggested that the State Department review its plan to admit more in the coming years. “Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Snyder's statement said, “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents."
So far, almost 160,000 Syrian refugees have been resettled or have applied for resettlement in countries around the world, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (The U.S. pledged to take 10,000 in the next fiscal year.) Of those, it's pretty clear that the vast majority are not extremists or terrorists. Rather, most of them are fleeing groups like the Islamic State, which are wreaking havoc on their home countries. That's the vital point that Bentley and Snyder are missing: Demonizing all refugees because one committed an act of terror is illogical and dangerous. It's exactly like demonizing all Muslims.
ISIS has made its goals pretty clear recently. It believes that those who flee the bloody war in Syria or ISIS-fueled conflict in Iraq are traitors. So in order to make sure that those people cannot live peacefully among Westerners, ISIS labels all of its attacks as achievements for all Muslims or all Syrians, even though it's common sense that not all Muslims are extremists with violent views. The Syrian passport that authorities discovered in the aftermath of the Paris attacks thus helps ISIS accomplish two goals at once: terrorizing Westerners while also eliminating the "grey zone" of coexistence between Westerners and Muslims — the latter is a goal that ISIS has vowed to accomplish.
Not only are the governors of Alabama and Michigan helping ISIS accomplish its goal, but they also seem unaware of just how restrictive the U.S. is about what refugees it accepts compared to countries like Greece, where they are arriving unannounced and by the boatload. Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, said on NBC's Meet the Press that the U.S. refugee policy would not change as a result of the attacks, and that the screening process for refugees is very careful and thorough:
We have very expansive screening procedures for all Syrian refugees who have come to the United States. There's a very careful vetting process that includes our intelligence community, our national Counterterrorism Center [and] the Department of Homeland Security, so we can make sure that we're carefully screening anybody who comes to the United States.
Rhodes very correctly pointed out that refugees are people "who've suffered the horrors of war — women and children, orphans." These people are running from the same terrorists who committed acts like the ones in Paris. It seems entirely callous and ignorant to turn away from those who need help, especially when one of the Islamic State's goals is to get the West to do just that.