Welcome to my state, Syrians

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Syrian refugees at Budapest railway station in September

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Syrian refugees at Budapest railway station in September

Syrian refugees at Budapest railway station in September

Syrian refugees at Budapest railway station in September

I woke up this morning, made myself a cup of coffee, and opened my New York Times to discover that a family of three Syrian refugees due to arrive in the U.S. Friday has been redirected from Indiana to Connecticut. The reason is that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence says he will no longer accept Syrian refugees in his state. My governor, Dannel Malloy, feels otherwise.

Actually, Pence and his fellow Republican governors have no authority to refuse to accept refugees admitted by the federal government. But they can make life harder for them. “My role is to create a welcoming environment here in our state that gives a safe haven to refugees,” Carleen Miller, executive director of Exodus Refugee Immigration in Indianapolis, told the Times. “That we can’t be that because our state is not welcoming all is really painful.”

Whither the GOP governors have gone, there likewise the GOP presidential aspirants. Every last one of them has assumed the position, though one can detect differences of posture.

Donald Trump would deport Syrians in the county now and close mosques. Chris Christie would keep out orphans. Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz would let in only Christians. Rick Santorum wouldn’t let in Christians because that would help ISIS rid the Middle East of them. Ben Carson would cut off federal funding.  John Kasich wants President Obama to suspend the program. Carly Fiorina stands with the governors.

I suppose I should be more sympathetic to Republican statesmen cowering at the thought of allowing a few heavily vetted Syrians into the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. When it was birthed in the 1850s, the GOP absorbed the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party, and it’s never managed to rid itself of that nativist gene.

On the other hand, leaders of the country’s two largest Christian communities, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals, yesterday came out against excluding the Syrian refugees. Church World Service, which represents mainline Protestants, has done the same, as has the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the ADL.

In recent years, Republicans have made a big show of standing up for religious values. But when push comes to shove, they could care less.

  • Mohammed Dajani

    True Spirit of Christian ethics

  • glenn harrell

    The real problem is, perhaps, in our confidence of governmental agencies.
    Maybe these Governors and statesmen know something we don’t?
    Surely, they aren’t just being cold-hearted brats?

    I have seen numerous confident (if not cocky) assurances that our present vetting system is not only healthy–they will guarantee that no cloaked assassins can Trojan in with the refugees. “We know what we’re doing”.

    We haven’t even begun to resolve the Latino border fiasco and here come the Muslims! Are the same people in charge of securing both? Then none of us are safe, including the refugees.

    If the Muslim countries are watching, I hope they note that the fear of a few jihadists among them is turning some USA mistrust into unfortunate corporate rejection. Were the situation reversed, anyone in the Middle East now (and parts of our own country) had better not claim to be Christian. Loss of pride and loss of head are two different things.

  • Thank you for not following Jesus.

    Yes, bring as many Muslim refugees to the USA. I fully support it.
    We need them badly and it happens to be the humanitarian thing to do.

    Muslims in America:
    1. Educated. They comprise less than 1% of the population yet 4% of the professional services in medicine and technology.
    2. Professional. They adapt to American life more quickly than any other religious group and begin paying taxes sooner.
    3. Freedom. The presence of Muslims strengthens separation of church and state.
    4. Secularism. Believe it or not, Muslims who leave the totalitarian regimes where religion is strictly enforced and settle in America lose their religion faster than any other religious group.

  • Larry

    “Maybe these Governors and statesmen know something we don’t?
    Surely, they aren’t just being cold-hearted brats?”

    Why not? These Governors have proven themselves to be both ignorant and cold-hearted brats on a ton of other subjects.

    Why should this be the exception here?

    These are the same people who regularly try to use legislation to attack the rights and liberties of their own citizens, who show consistent willful lack of knowledge on various subjects and generally love to appeal to bigotry to get votes out.

    Equating Syrian refugees with illegal aliens is a perfect example of the necessary ignorance of the Immigration system required for nativist stances. Refugees are treated to permanent residency and eventual citizenship if they can demonstrate their lives would be endangered if deported due to persecution. An easy bar to clear for someone fleeing Islamic State.

    Conservatives criticize the vetting system without demonstrating knowledge of it. Fearmongering…

  • “Maybe these Governors and statesmen know something we don’t?”

    Like what?

  • Chaplain Martin

    Pew research printed a finding regarding a 1938 poll in which it found that 67% of U.S. citizens said they didn’t believe any peoples from Germany or others under Nazi persecution should be admitted into the country. When the horrors of Nazism became more apparent, in 1939 there were a few less that was opposed to admitting them

    As far as religious ethics are concerned, did those responding really read Mark’s article. Read it again and you will find many religious groups representing millions of U.S. citizens, are against STOPPING the current flow of immigrants from the middle east.

    I actually believe brother Max has some good information as he noted the number of middle eastern persons who add greatly to our nation. I can see why they drop their religion in the U.S., because its difficult to maintain it in a nation where many people that see it only as the enemy.

  • glenn harrell

    Mr. Chaplain,

    Every time a law enforcement officer follows protocol, the flower children all line up to bash them because one cop did it wrong. We all try to prove just how friendly and non-prejudiced we are and it is obvious to everyone but ourselves that we are faking it. “Bro Max”

    What do you get when you handcuff a clock-maker “genius” kid?
    A free ride to the white House and Mark Zuckerbergs pad for tea and croissants. Meanwhile, the principal, cops, school administrators all are sent off to reform school for doing their job by the letter as told. Had they not exercised such precaution and protocol, they would have been crucified should an intrusion occurred on their watch.

    Somewhere in here the wind is saying Caution. Such wisdom is also ethical.
    It is easy to say, go ahead, bring-em in–something else to call your Congressman and open your home up to several like you would an exchange student.

    The wisdom of our present President and Staff is maxed out it seems…

  • Larry

    You have demonstrated you don’t even know what “the protocol” is here. So your criticism of it has no value. There is caution based on reasonable risk and knowledgeable assessment of the situation, and there is panic.

    Plus lumping in refugees (people who have a path to citizenship and permanent residence) with illegal aliens demonstrates an ignorance of the system which is entirely necessary for most anti-immigration screeds.

    At no point are the critics of taking in the refugees demonstrating what is reasonable or knowledgeable here. There is a ton of stereotyping, using panic as a political tool, requests for patently improper actions and just plain sectarian bigotry being slung around.

    These Republican governors have always shown a blatant disregard for rule of law, constitutional principles and proper treatment of their citizens. Most of them supported discriminatory legislature against their own people. Their opinion on the matter amounts to nothing of value here.

  • @Glenn Harell,

    “just to prove how friendly…”

    You are a great reminder that Christianity is not a good guide for morality.

    Bringing the refugees to the USA is a matter of self interest as well as humanitarianism.

    Despite the reams of evidence to support bringing them to the USA, the Christian position instead is to be fearful, tribal and defensive
    – Just like St. Paul,

    “Avoid them” – Paul (Romans 16:15)

    Religion obstructs reasonable solutions every time. What a nuisance.

  • glenn harrell

    Is that you Brother Max?
    Not sure in what sense the good Chaplain wants you as a “brother” but perhaps you could be offended by such word play? I hope he isn’t trying to convert you with such niceties and all.

    Let’s hope the fundamentalist Muslim versions (makes the Christian fundys seem like candy cane salesmen) change their minds and persuasions about Atheists and Christians alike.

    Or perhaps we will get only the moderate Muslim versions who are as ankle deep in devotion to the Qur’an and Allah as the Christians who claim to follow Jesus but deny him by” being tribal, fearful and defensive.”

    Who knows what we will get? One thing for sure, the Muslims are to be as fervent about their faith as the Christians and each have commands to convert the other. They are equally committed to the conversion of the proclaiming Atheist with just zeal. Anyone ever just call you Max?

    I kind of like it.
    Peace out from Dufus Glenn.

  • Doc Anthony

    Since Republican governors are supposed to be the bad guys here, let’s listen to a DEMOCRAT governor on this refugee issue.

    “New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan took it one step further, becoming the first Democratic governor Monday afternoon to call for a complete freeze of Syrian refugees entering the United States until the government can “ensure robust refugee screening.”

    ‘The Governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people,’ said a statement from Hassan’s communications director, William Hinkle.”

    — Boston Globe, (online), Nov. 16.

    Ooo-Wee !! Imagine that. A Democrat governor is calling for the same rational, common-sense position as the Republicans.

    How come Silk’s article didn’t even mention her? Hmm?

  • @Glenn,

    The Dear Chaplain Martin and I share a love of humanity. We are true bothers that way.

    We have opposing views of religion and Jesus. I think Jesus is awful and steers people against humanity. But I respect Chaplain Martin’s right to believe otherwise. I am not all knowing. Perhaps he has a point I have yet to learn.

  • Otto Katz

    Every day, I love this state more and more. Connecticut, you are my home.

  • Larry

    Police believe attackers used forged passports to stigmatize refugees

    “Islamic State has frequently said one of its goals is to stop refugees from fleeing Syria by any means possible, and tells refugees they are committing “a major dangerous sin” by attempting to flee the war and entering countries where they will be assimilated or integrated into “Christianity, atheism or liberalism.”

    The group has used photos and video of children who have drowned in its propaganda, telling refugees they are throwing away their “lives and souls” by going to Europe.

  • Jack

    Mark, you’re right to favor admitting Syrians, but your article degenerates into a “why-I’ve-hated-Republicans-since-the-day-I-was-born” rant. And by the time you’re done, you’ve hit bottom, accusing the GOP of not caring at all about religious values just because they dare to disagree with you.

    You need to dispense with late-1960s moral preening and recognize that on many issues, there is no single position on which every well-meaning person agrees. I agree that the anti-refugee position is seriously wrong-headed but I don’t challenge the motives of every person who feels otherwise.

    And no, if someone opposes admitting Syrian refugees, that doesn’t make them anti-immigration. Virtually every GOP presidential candidate generally supports legal immigration in every other instance.

    Finally, if you want to tie the GOP to the know-nothings, be prepared to tie the Dems to slavery and Jim Crow.

    And if you’re going to blast parties for their behavior

  • Jack

    So Mohammed deems himself a judge of who obeys or doesn’t obey “Christian ethics.”

  • Jack

    When it comes to Muslim migration, while Europe often gets the dregs of humanity, we in America get the cream of the crop.

    For once I agree with Max. What’s truly amazing is how the two groups that most hated each other in their respective old countries — Pakistani Muslims and Indian Hindus — get along and even make friends here in America.

    There are neighborhoods in America, and particularly in New York, where Pakistani Muslim and Indian Hindu kids play together.

    Again, it’s a wonderful thing.

  • Jack

    Max is correct on Muslims coming to America. We’re largely getting the best of the best.

    We do have to worry about the next generation, because that generation will be under pressure to reassert their Muslim identity and the biggest boom in mosque construction in America has been of the pro-Wahhabi kind.

    Nonetheless, for now, it looks good, better than the alarmists were predicting.

  • Larry

    We only have to worry about the next generation if we continue legitimizing rhetoric which demonizes the entire faith Islam. These refugees and their descendants are our main weapon against radicalization.

    When we don’t call out nonsense like Trump demanding that Muslims be registered and mosques closed, or Ben Carson’s declaration that Muslims are unfit for public office.

    The US is remarkably good at providing for immigrant families in subsequent generations. We make people citizens at birth and actively enforce our anti-discrimination laws. Since we are not a nation whose identity is tied to religion, race or ethnicity, there is far less of an exclusion from the national culture for these people, unlike Europe.

    Lets also be honest, even with the refugees, Muslims are a very long way off to be a demographically significant minority group as they are in Europe.

    Aside from the Mariel Boatlift, I can’t think of a single refugee group which was really troublesome to…

  • Jack

    There’s a difference, Larry, between cautious optimism and burying one’s head in the sand. While I think we’re going to be fine in America, it does not follow that we can let our guard down against the threat of radicalization for the next generation. The first generation has come here for much the same reason as most immigrants throughout our history — mostly for economic opportunity. It’s always the next generation, which grows up with economic security that the first generation had to work hard to achieve, which searches for its identity. While we are infinitely better than Europe at integrating immigrants, we’d be fools to conclude that we are completely immune from second-generation issues.

    We are in good shape compared to Europe, but we’re not immune.

  • Larry

    The whole, “we are importing ISIS members as refugees” thing is borne largely of ignorance of the situation, intentional hysteria by both conservative politicians and ISIS itself and good old plain, “because their Muslim” animosity.

    It actually makes no sense to bring in terrorists as refugees for a number of reasons. There is up to a 2 year wait while a refugee’s background is being vetted. This makes it difficult to plan operations or make it past authorities. Once they get here they must appear before CIS to explain why they are political refugees in a long, arduous interview process. Because refugees are made permanent resident, there is a high level of scrutiny on them here.

    Tourist visas are much easier to obtain and have far less scrutiny once someone is in the country. Plus it is in the interests of ISIS to demonize the refugees and make it more difficult for them to flee to safe democratic nations.

  • glenn harrell

    Hi Larry,

    Looks like you have this thing well in hand.

    Where do the refugees stay for this 2 year period and what do they do, where do they get income, and who feeds them and just how much are they allowed to assimilate into their new community, and to whom are they accountable?

  • Larry

    “Where do the refugees stay for this 2 year period”

    You treat the situation as hypothetical instead of bothering to find out the facts on the ground. They have been staying in “way station countries” in Europe and in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Refugees in Europe are treated as legal immigrants for all intents and purposes. They are surviving on the largesse of NGOs in the refugee camps

    “where do they get income, and who feeds them and just how much are they allowed to assimilate into their new community, and to whom are they accountable?”

    Where do we take care of such things for any legal immigrants?

    We don’t.

    Refugees are given permanent residence once they come here. As a freedom loving nation, we let people figure those things out themselves. If you are so curious as to how that plays out, do some research on the Cuban exodus or the “Boat people” of Vietnam and Cambodia in the late 70’s.