In times of crisis, true character reveals itself. In response to the Paris terror attacks, too many Republican governors and presidential candidates are showing themselves to be xenophobes and demagogues, scoring cheap political points by trying to close the door to Syrian refugees.
To his credit, Gov. Jerry Brown made clear that California will continue to welcome refugees, with proper vetting. Californians should be proud – not scared – to have taken in the most of any state this year, 218.
Certainly, we don’t want to let jihadists into the country. But the screening for Syrians is already more stringent than for any other refugees. It takes at least two years in most cases, and involves the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center and Defense and Homeland Security departments.
And while European nations have a major problem with thousands of young men streaming across their borders, we’re not likely to accept many of them. In fact, officials say, of the 2,200 Syrian refugees admitted since 2011, only 2 percent have been men of “combat age.”
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Half have been children, and there are plenty of women and children to more than fill the 10,000 slots for Syrian refugees that the Obama administration has promised over the next year.
As President Barack Obama says, offering shelter to refugees and keeping America safe are not mutually exclusive. In fact, by feeding panic and betraying our values, those who want to turn away refugees are doing exactly what the terrorists want. And though early reports said at least one of the Paris terrorists came in as a refugee, the Syrian passport might have been faked, precisely to stoke the fear that’s happening.
Common sense and compassion, however, are in short supply among the Republicans falling all over themselves to appear the toughest. A GOP leader in Tennessee went so far as to call for mobilizing that state’s National Guard to stop Syrian refugees from coming in and to kick out the 30 admitted this year.
Some 30 Republican governors say they will not accept Syrian refugees, though their states haven’t taken many and what they’re proposing is almost certainly illegal. Once refugees are admitted by the federal government, they have freedom to travel.
All too predictably, the Republican U.S. House is appealing to the basest instincts of its electoral base. It plans to vote Thursday on a measure that would “pause” resettlements of Syrian and Iraqi refugees until the administration comes up with a way to conduct background checks on each person and certify each does not pose a terror threat.
While not as despicable as completely banning refugees or giving priority to Christians, as presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz suggested, the legislation would still effectively close the door, even as the carnage in Syria worsens. Obama says he would veto it.
Though some Democrats are also wilting under the political heat, Reps. Adam Schiff of Burbank and Zoe Lofgren of San Jose urged the House to stand on principle. “It is in these times that the core values of our nation are tested,” they rightly said in a statement Wednesday. “Welcoming refugees who are fleeing persecution and war is the humane – and American – thing to do.”
History will remember who showed political courage and who pandered to hysteria. Voters should, too.