On Monday, the President reiterated that his first priority is the safety of the American people. That is why the United States is working with a global coalition of 65 partners to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. The tragic event in Paris last week was terrible and sickening.
But as we intensify our efforts in coordination with our partners to take ISIL out, we cannot turn our backs on Syrian refugees who are most threatened by the terrorist group. To slam the door in their faces would be a betrayal of who we are as Americans. Today, we resettle refugees while also safeguarding the safety and security of the American people. As detailed by our National Security team, refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States. We can and must welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety, while maintaining our own security.
The President’s approach to welcoming Syrian refugees while ensuring our safety has earned praise from a wide range of individuals and organizations, including many faith-based organizations who have pushed back on calls to halt the resettlement of refugees. Here’s what they are saying:
Coalition of 81 Refugee and Immigrant Law Experts; Humanitarian Aid Organizations; and Faith, Labor, and Civil and Human Rights Groups:
At a time when the world needs humanitarian leadership, some are now calling for the suspension of the U.S. refugee resettlement program or the imposition of restrictions on funding for Syrians and other groups of refugees. We oppose these proposals and believe they would jeopardize the United States' moral leadership in the world. Syrian refugees are fleeing exactly the kind of terror that unfolded on the streets of Paris. They have suffered violence just like this for almost five years. Most have lost loved ones to persecution and violence, in addition to having had their country, their community, and everything they own brutally taken from them.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Chairman Bishop Eusebio Elizondo:
I am disturbed, however, by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization. Moreover, refugees to this country must pass security checks and multiple interviews before entering the United States — more than any arrival to the United States…Instead of using this tragedy to scapegoat all refugees, I call upon our public officials to work together to end the Syrian conflict peacefully so the close to 4 million Syrian refugees can return to their country and rebuild their homes.
National Association for Evangelicals, President Leith Anderson:
Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS…We are horrified and heartbroken by the terrorist atrocities in Paris, but must not forget that there are thousands more victims of these same terrorists who are fleeing Syria with their families and desperately need someplace to go.
World Vision, President Richard Stearns:
The four million refugees who have fled Syria are among the most love-starved people in the world. They have been forced to flee their homes. They have left family members behind, often in graves. They have left their communities. They have nothing, and where ever they go no one wants them. In Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and most places in the West, many Syrian refugees are mostly unwanted. What a testimony it would be if the church embraced them with open arms…Instead of fearfully turning away from Syrian refugees, we need to see the amazing opportunity we have to show the love of Christ.
Church World Service, President and CEO Rev. John L. McCullough:
Refugees are the single most scrutinized and vetted individuals to travel to the United States, undergoing more than seven security checks by intelligence agencies, including biometric tests, medical screenings and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials. To blame Syrian refugees, who are themselves fleeing the horrors of ISIS, for the acts of their perpetrators, is just plain wrong. These knee-jerk reactions stoke fear and bigotry, and have no place in this great nation.
Jesuit Refugee Service, USA Director for Policy Mitzi Schroeder:
To call for a halt to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attack makes little sense. These are people who are fleeing violence visited upon their homes during the Syrian conflict, often by ISIS or by other extremist factions. Out of the millions who have fled, only a few thousands have thus far been selected as resettlement candidates, and these are those who have suffered most greatly – widows with children, trauma and torture survivors, members of persecuted minorities. They are, furthermore subject to the most rigorous security screening that our government has ever imposed.
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Vice President for Programs Michael Mitchell:
If more Americans saw the image of Syrians who are here and grateful to participate in American society, they would not be fearing Syrians, they would be asking, ‘How can we welcome more.’
World Relief, President and CEO Stephan Bauman:
As information about these attacks continues to pour in, we ask that Christians and churches across the United States continue to pioneer the way for a compassionate response to the ongoing refugee crisis…Instead of allowing ourselves to be consumed by fear, we must ground ourselves in love and open our arms to these refugees. It would be a mistake to shut out all refugees who have been victims of the same sort of terror inflicted last week upon Paris and Beirut based on these concerns.
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:
[N]ow is the time to ensure the U.S. refugee system remains open to those fleeing Syria and who wish to contribute to and strengthen our nation. Calls to impose new limits on Syrian refugees, to impose a religious test on refugees, or to close our doors altogether ignore the reality that the lengthy and rigorous vetting of refugee applications helps ensure our national security while upholding our historic role as a place of refuge.
Melanie Garunay is Associate Director of Digital Outbound for the Office of Digital Strategy