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Observers Push Back Against Anti-Refugee Ugliness: “No Exaggeration to Call This Un-American”

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Once Again, Facts Fall Victim to Fear and Hysteria

Voices across the political spectrum are pushing back on the anti-refugee ugliness on display from some politicians.

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund: “We need to make policies based on facts, not fear.  America prides itself on being a welcoming nation and a beacon of hope for refugees.  We cannot stay true to our values while turning our backs on vulnerable people when they need us the most.”

Following are excerpts from news stories and personal reactions that offer an important contrast to the anti-refugee ugliness:

Immigration Attorney David Leopold: “I Have Never Encountered a More Vulnerable and Frightened Group of Refugees” as Syrians Fleeing Persecution: Prominent immigration attorney David Leopold, past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, shared the following reflection: “I’ve been representing Syrians fleeing persecution in Syria since the turmoil began in 2011.  In all my years as an attorney I have never ever encountered a more vulnerable and frightened group of refugees.  To a person the Syrians I’ve represented have sat in my office terrified; their fear of being sent back to Syria palpable.  In painstaking detail they recount the horror of the arrests, disappearance and murder of loved ones, close friends and colleagues.  With the chaos that has enveloped their country they describe the horror what would befall them if ISIS or some other terrorist army invaded their homes.  One story is more terrifying than the next.  The Syrian refugees include doctors targeted by the regime and rebel groups alike who aim to ‘neutralize’ their medical skills to keep them from treating a potential political or religious rival; LGBT Syrians targeted for their sexual orientation and political beliefs; and women fleeing violence to protect their children and themselves.  The Syrian clients I have been so privileged to represent have come to America, like generations of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers before them, in search of a safe haven, freedom, and a better life for their children.  Now is not the time to recoil in fear and xenophobia.  Now is the time to stand tall as Americans and protect our nation’s great legacy as a beacon of hope, safety and freedom for all refugees who grace our shores.”

Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith: “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.”

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: “Republicans’ Xenophobic Bidding War”: “This growing cry to turn away people fleeing for their lives brings to mind the SS St. Louis, the ship of Jewish refugees turned away from Florida in 1939. It’s perhaps the ugliest moment in a primary fight that has been sullied by bigotry from the start. It’s no exaggeration to call this un-American.  Or un-Christian. Among those distressed by the latest turn in the GOP primary is the National Association of Evangelicals. ‘We’re saddened and shocked about what happened in Paris,’ said Matthew Soerens, spokesman for World Relief, the evangelical association’s humanitarian arm. ‘But we don’t think the response should be to close our doors to closely vetted people coming from Syria.’ Soerens argued that:

o   Rather than Trump’s male-heavy flood of 250,000 coming to the United States, only 2,200 Syrians have been admitted in the past four years (10,000 are expected over the next year) and 70 percent have been either women or children under age 14.

o   The situation here is “entirely different” from Europe, where Syrian refugees are flooding across borders. Here, an ocean away from the conflict, they aren’t admitted until they are vetted for at least 18 months.

o   No terrorist incident has ever been traced to somebody admitted through the American refugee resettlement program.

o   A plurality of refugees admitted to the United States from all destinations are Christian. A disproportionate number of refugees from Iraq admitted to the United States have been Christian. And while most — but not all — of the Syrian refugees so far are Muslim, this makes sense because “it’s a mostly Muslim country and most of the victims are Muslim.”

Condoleezza Rice: Hopes America Can Remain “Open and Welcoming” to Refugees: During a speech in Alabama yesterday, former George W. Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed hope that America can remain “open and welcoming” to refugees, noting that, “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.”

Ari Fleischer Calls GOP Approach to Refugees “Very Worrisome”:Ari Fleischer, George W. Bush’s former press secretary and a Republican strategist, called the Republican response to the refugee issue, “very worrisome … We must always make the distinction between law-abiding Muslims, of which there are many, and radical Islamists who want to do us great harm.”

Dara Lind at Vox.com: “The US Is So Paranoid About Syrian Refugees That It’s Letting Barely Any In”“The sad truth is that the US’s insistence on screening Syrian refugees carefully, and its almost paranoid aversion to admitting anyone whose family might have had any form of contact with any extremist group at any point, created a bottleneck that for years prevented nearly any Syrian refugee from coming to the US. The federal government has just, in 2015, started devoting enough resources to screening refugees who’ve fled Syria to start allowing them to come into the country in any numbers at all. The US has admitted only 2,000 Syrian refugees over the past four-plus years…. Syrian refugees have to prove a negative: that they have never had any involvement with any group the US would consider terrorists.”

Tramonte continued: “Refugees are the single most vetted group of immigrants to this country.  It takes years for a single Syrian refugee—hand-selected by UNHCR—to make it through the U.S. vetting process.  We can protect America and protect refugees at the same time; we’re doing it today.  Politicians who want us to ignore these refugees are not only hurting these individuals and families, they’re hurting our country’s values.“

Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice Education Fund on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice

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