President Barack Obama has said that the United States is poised to take in five times as many refugees in 2015 than it has in the last four years combined, much to the chagrin of xenophobes like presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz told reporters on Nov. 15 that “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror” before going on to say allowing Muslim refugees into the United States would be “lunacy” and that there is no way of telling if a Muslim is a member of ISIS. Not to be outdone on the lunacy front, Jeb Bush openly called for Christian refugees to be given preferential treatment. But in light of recent acts of violence, both domestic and international, this kind of brash nonsense is not only socially irresponsible, but also morally bankrupt.
The politicians against accepting refugees incorrectly believe that these refugees represent a large terrorism threat to the United States. What they fail to acknowledge, however, is the equal — if not higher — likelihood of a terror threat from anti-government white Americans. Furthermore, German authorities have repeatedly stated that the number of suspected ISIS members found among refugees is negligible. The recent choice to demonize refugees and Muslims over other equally threatening groups only serves to perpetuate the contentious divide between East and West. This division is what ISIS thrives on. In their efforts to fight terrorism, Republican politicians end up playing into the ideology they are fighting against.
It’s easy to dismiss politicians’ remarks as cheap soundbites. It is election season, and this emotional moment is a prime time to rally the Republican base with some appropriately jingoistic, anti-immigrant boilerplate. But these cheap political jabs have consequences, and we have seen these consequences manifest already. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, French president Francois Hollande boldly declared “France is at war,” and launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria as if to prove it. But these knee-jerk reactions are not what we need in this sensitive time. When geopolitics are horrendously complicated and when hatred and fear are what motivate our enemies, we need humanity now more than ever — toward our citizens and toward refugees.
The news that the Republican Party is straying from these essential values is cause for concern, but also is no surprise in an election cycle that has already seen candidates spew sexist, racist and Islamophobic bombast over the airwaves. A sonnet by Emma Lazarus is engraved on the lower pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. It reads, in part, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” This country was founded on multiculturalism and the idea that anyone, even immigrants, can make their mark on this country. If Donald Trump wants to make America great again, he need only look at the inscription on that gift from France in New York harbor.
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