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November 20, 2015

By Ryan Kiesel

A week has passed since the attacks in Paris. The loss remains difficult to comprehend and the effect on our collective conscious is still unsettling. It’s only natural that when our sense of safety is undermined that we grasp for something or someone to tell us how to keep ourselves and or loved ones safe from future threats.

We can only hope that we never become so numb to such tragedies that fear and pain is not present in the aftermath. And while the perpetrators of such attacks intend to instill this fear, they can only consider themselves victorious if we in turn allow that fear to dictate how we live our lives or to manipulate how we choose to govern ourselves.

Terrorists by their very nature can only hope that in the wake of their brutality that we abandon our fundamental values and betray a decency so common it is recognizable by people of all faiths and those of no faith at all.

We can and we must deny them of that goal.

When the nation’s Governors spread lies and encourage suspicion about Syrian refugees they are betraying the interests of the United States and what it means to be an American. They have wrapped themselves so tightly in the xenophobic rhetoric that they have become blind to the otherwise obvious reality that they are doing exactly what the terrorists’ predicted and hoped they would do.

The call to refuse refugees on the basis of their nationality along with the the cry for religious tests for refugees are wildly unconstitutional. These histrionics are empty of any legal authority and the speakers should, and in some instance probably do, know better. As hollow as these statements may be, they do unfortunately contain a poison that legitimizes hate and prejudice at home and abroad.

The truth is that the refugees escaping violence in Syria have found themselves in one of the most dire and desperate situations imaginable. The screening process before they are ever admitted to the United States is robust and thorough. To make them nationless or to return them to the chaos of their homeland is a fate we can only hope would not be imposed upon us if we were forced from our homes and had our lives torn apart.  And it is precisely the type of response grounded in fear that terrorists’ are counting on.

The world in which we live is not neat. It is not tidy. And often, there are no easy answers. But sometimes the answers are easy. That includes the answer of whether to help those escaping from unimaginable danger and the question of whether we should turn our backs on our constitutional values.

Finally, as absurd as it may be, we live in an age in which saying you welcome the orphans and widows of Syria to your state is arguably an inconvenient political position. Please join us at the ACLU of Oklahoma in saying thank you to those Governors and other elected officials who have expressed their support for the refugees and for reminding us all of what we can be when we are at our best.

To read more about the Constitutional values at hand, please visit: https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/governors-threats-exclude-syrian-refugees-are-not-only-fear-mongering-theyre

 

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