Governor Hogan, don’t shut the door on refugees
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This afternoon, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan requested that the federal government cease any resettlement of Syrian refugees in Maryland on the grounds that resettlement would jeopardize “the safety and security of Marylanders.”
Never mind that Hogan doesn’t technically have the power to prevent the federal government from resettling refugees within Maryland. Never mind that this decision appears to be a cynical ploy to politicize the tragic attacks in Paris.
What’s important to note is that Hogan’s claims of protecting “the safety and security of Marylanders” by denying refugees a home is, at best, misguided, ignorant and hateful.
For one, it is patently absurd to paint these refugees as a security threat to Maryland. Of the nearly 750,000 refugees that have resettled in the U.S since 9/11, exactly zero have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges. The notion that the horrific Paris terrorist attacks could’ve been averted had France rejected refugees rings hollow in light of the fact that nearly every attacker was an E.U. citizen. The passport that supposedly proved one of the attackers to be a refugee turned out to be fake, something U.S. screening procedures could easily detect.
These refugees are not terrorists. They are fleeing from terrorists. To deny them shelter is to deny them not only their basic human rights as guaranteed by international law, but to condemn them to certain misery in the overcrowded refugee camps of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan or in their war-torn home country. It is our moral obligation, then, as human beings, to accept those who have been driven out of their homes by the ravages of war.
Contrary to Hogan’s claims, denying refugees will only make terrorism worse. Broadly speaking, denying refugees access to jobs and better lives, and pushing millions into overpacked refugee camps is a recipe for creating alienation and resentment. And vilifying refugees only plays into ISIS’s core message about the West’s “war on Islam” that drives their recruitment.
There is a lot more fear in this country than there was last week. Justifiably so. But short-sighted decisions like Hogan’s turn this understandable desire for safety into hatred against innocent refugees who are fleeing the very violence we wish to shield ourselves from.
During the 1930s and 40s, the U.S. rejected Jewish refugees on the grounds that they might be harboring Nazi spies among them. It is easy to say that we were wrong in hindsight. From this horrific event, we should have learned the lesson already: closing the door to refugees doesn’t close the door to terrorists. Denying refugees doesn’t make us safer. It just makes us more afraid, more vulnerable, and less human.