Aaron C. Rippenkroeger, president and CEO of Refugee Services of Texas Inc., said the state should be mindful not to single out refugees as “bad actors.”
“Given existing security screening procedures for refugees, we believe the governor’s directive will serve no useful purpose except to stoke fear and bigotry toward refugees — prejudice which Americans, who comprise our nation of immigrants, have historically and categorically rejected,” Rippenkroeger said.
Texas governor Greg Abbott is among those who spoke out against providing asylum to Syrian refugees, citing safety and security precautions that Abbott said could endanger Texans.
“I will not roll the dice and take the risk on allowing a few refugees in, simply to expose Texans to that danger,” Abbott said in a news conference last week.
Dr. Hanan Hammad, TCU professor of Modern Middle East history, said she was shocked by Governor Abbott’s announcement because “as humans we have a responsibility to [the refugees].”
“These statements are shocking,” Hammad said. “It shows our worst as irresponsible human beings.”
As a historian, Hammad suggested that America should learn from history, specifically the Holocaust, when dealing with the refugee issue. She said that America cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of the Syrian refugees as it did with the Jews during the Holocaust.
“Ten, fifteen years from today, after we’ve realized all the casualties, how are we going to look at ourselves,” Hammad asked.
Abbott’s announcement echoes that of 30 other governors around the nation; citing the security of their citizens and states as the chief reason for refusing Syrian refugees.
“Michigan is a welcoming state and we are proud of our rich history of immigration,” Rick Synder, governor of Michigan, said. “But our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
In a press release, Alabama governor, Robert Bentley, said “after full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.”
“As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way,” Bentley said.
In total, thirty-one states, of which all but one have a Republican governor, have adopted the measure in the wake of the Paris attacks.
According to a video by Rowaida Abdelaziz of the Huffington Post, there have been more than 2,000 Syrian refugees resettled into the U.S. since the conflict began in 2011 and “not one has been arrested or removed for terrorism.”
Abdelaziz further explains that although the Paris attackers were linked to the extremist militant group ISIS, not one of them were actually Syrian.
Furthermore, the states’ opposition are in direct conflict with the Obama administration’s commitment to provide a safe haven for refugees of Syria’s current conflict.
In September, the administration announced that it would allow the resettlement of about 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year.
Despite the states’ opposition to accept Syrian refugees, constitutionally, they don’t have the power to enforce such measures. The final verdict belongs to the federal government. Recently, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would shelve the admittance of Syrian and Iraqi refugees until national security agencies confirm that they do not pose a threat to security, according the a CNN report. The Senate has yet to vote on the matter.
President Barack Obama has openly condemned the states’ opposition to further admit Syrian refugees; calling the measures “shameful.”
“The idea that somehow they pose a more significant threat than all the tourists who pour into the United States every single day just doesn’t jive with reality,” Obama stated. “So my expectation is after the initial spasm of rhetoric, the people will settle down, take a look at the facts, and we’ll be able to proceed.”
Obama promises to veto the House bill.