As some Republican Presidential candidates for office — notably led by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz — are wasting no time exploiting the recent tragedy in Paris, a growing chorus of U.S. leaders are calling out GOP-led fearmongering and instead urging leaders and the nation to welcome refugees.
Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker said refugees are thoroughly vetted and should not be turned away from our doors.
“While security is paramount, we have a responsibility to fulfill our commitment to this international crisis and simply closing the door to America and turning our backs on the children, women and families fleeing the atrocities in their homeland is not the answer to defeating terrorism,” said Senator Menendez.
Senator Booker continued: “We need to approach this humanitarian disaster with both practicality and compassion. These refugees are fleeing evil — they are victims, not villains. America is a beacon of freedom and hope, and we have a responsibility to show empathy and kindness to these families.”
“As Members of Congress, our first responsibility is to protect and defend the American people and our constitution. The attacks in Paris and Beirut give searing urgency to that responsibility. We will continue to strengthen our efforts to destroy ISIS, fight terror, and protect the American people. We are resolute and we are strong.
“ISIS’s brutality is a threat to all nations. The horrific attacks in Paris and the inhuman violence that is driving so many Syrian families to flee their homes in search of safety challenge the whole world to action. While we must and do subject any prospective-refugee to the most rigorous scrutiny and screening, it would betray our proudest values as Americans to slam the door in the face of desperate mothers seeking a safe place for their children.
“The fact is, since October 2013, only about 2,100 Syrian refugees have been admitted to the United States. Before approval, all applicants are subjected to rigorous scrutiny and an intensive screening process that takes, on average, between 18 and 24 months. We can both welcome desperate, vulnerable families and ensure our own security. No terrorist’s hate can overcome the strength of our values – and we will be unwavering in our fight against terror.”
Also today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers said “millions of Syrians are fleeing the very violence and depravity in their war-torn home country that we saw on gruesome display in Paris on Friday, the 13th.”
“Rather than betraying our values, we must continue to focus on the most effective tools to keep us safe while also providing refuge for the world’s most vulnerable,” the Congressman said.
He continued: “Refugees are more thoroughly vetted than any other traveler or immigrant to the United States. We should not let kneejerk reactions keep us from being a beacon of hope for Syrian refugees and other refugees in the Middle East, Africa, and around the world.”
“Doing anything different would not only be turning our back on the world’s refugees, but also on our own proud of history of providing safe haven.”
In an impassioned floor speech, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez called out the “opportunism” on display by some political candidates and urged leaders to stay true to American values.
“Let us, as legislators, leaders and patriots, rise above petty politics, rise above sectarian fears, rise above the underlying layer of xenophobia that often surfaces in this country at moments like this throughout our history,” Rep. Gutiérrez said.
“And let us maintain America’s commitment to being a beacon of hope for those fleeing oppression, violence, and intolerance; A haven for the religiously persecuted, whether they are Buddhists from Tibet, Christians from Iran, or Pilgrims from Europe. That is who we are.”
A link to the Congressman’s full statement is available here, and a video of his floor speech is below.
Also this morning, Rep. Ruben Gallego expressed his alarm “at the hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from some in the Republican Party,” adding that “refugees come to the United States fleeing the same type of senseless violence that occurred in Paris.”
“The vast majority of ISIS’s victims have been Muslim, and most Syrian refugees are families with children. ISIS is a terrorist organization and does not represent the beliefs of the Muslim religion.”
“Allowing ISIS to stoke fear and anti-Muslim sentiment is counter to our American values found on the Statue of Liberty. We should not let fear caused by terrorism overcome our sense of morality,” the Congressman continued.
Like Senator Menendez, Senator Booker, Leader Pelosi, Rep. Conyers, and Rep. Gutiérrez, Rep. Gallego assured the nation that refugees who come to the United States are subject to the highest level of security screening before they ever allowed to enter the country — important facts fearmongering Republicans like Trump consistently fail to mention.
“I support the Obama Administration in its commitment to resettle refugees fleeing violence in a safe manner, consistent with our national security,” concluded Rep. Gallego.
Additionally, notable conservatives also echoed the sentiments of the Democratic members of Congress.
Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State under Republican President George W. Bush, hoped America could remain “open and welcoming” to refugees, saying yesterday:
“What the United States has done is to be open to people who are fleeing tyranny, who are fleeing danger, but we have done it in a very careful way that has worked for us … Generally under those circumstances we have been able to manage the flow but that has been 75,000 people a year at its height. But now we are facing hundreds of thousands.”
And, Fox News anchor Shep Smith said during his newscast that “we must not let the rhetoric of potential and political extremists among us lead us to self destruction.”
“In the face of terror, will we panic, or be calm and deliberative in approach? … Confronted with those who want to change our way of life, will we abandon our freedoms and the rights granted to us by the Creator? … Our shining city on a hill is vulnerable. We’ve always known that. If we change it to accommodate the savages, have they won? And what then would be left to protect? We profess to stand as an example for all the world. Our unique experiment in freedom, tolerance, openness, and equality is our gift to societies and peoples everywhere. Come, join us. Enjoy a chance at the American dream. Today, we mourn, but we cannot allow ourselves to become like those who want to destroy us. We cannot resort to the tactics of the barbarians. We must fight for what we believe in and who we are, guard our freedoms faithfully for the generations to follow. And we must not let the rhetoric of potential and political extremists among us lead us to self-destruction. When there’s panic, we show resolve. When there’s calm for extremism, we resist. We are America. We must lead.”