Local Leaders Urge Compassion toward Refugees
November 24, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. — From Madison to Marshalltown to Memphis and beyond, the conversation about refugees has turned. Countering the calls of governors, members of Congress and others, local mayors, pastors and law enforcement leaders are saying we must honor our tradition of welcoming those seeking refuge.
In a letter Friday, 62 signatories from the United States Conference of Mayors voiced their support for refugee resettlement under the current screening process and urged Congress not to prevent it.
“Our nation has always been a beacon of hope for those seeking peace and protection from persecution,” the letter reads. “We urge you to take no action that will jeopardize this rich and proud heritage.”
Two of the signatories are the mayors of Austin, Texas, and Detroit, who have spoken more pointedly about welcoming Syrian refugees to their cities. The governors of their states and 29 others have talked about suspending resettlement of at least Syrian refugees — which elicited a letter from Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson that explains the security procedures in place for prospective refugees.
Other local leaders are speaking up as well.
“The United States has one of the strictest and most thorough refugee vetting processes,” said Chief Carmen Best, Seattle Police Department. “Once cleared, refugees become important, hardworking members of our communities, and some even go on to proudly serve in law enforcement. I recognize the necessary cautions that are being taken. But we also have to remember our country’s history of accepting immigrants and refugees, and all the contributions they bring with them.”
“America is the nation that once said ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” said Ali Chambers, Lead Pastor at Mosaic Church Memphis in Tennessee. “The greatness of America hinges on it remaining true to that sentiment. I wholeheartedly support accepting refugees into our nation.”
“‘On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink’ (Romans 12:20). As believers we must welcome these Syrian refugees,” said Tim Jewett, Executive Director of Su Casa Family Ministries in Memphis. “In the worst-case scenario, we are called to feed them. It is much easier to do that if we are not afraid to invite them to dinner.”
“Refugees are admitted to the U.S. only upon successful completion of the comprehensive screening process,” said Chief Mike Koval, Madison Police Department, Madison, Wisc. “The U.S. government has done a good job of screening refugees and will continue to do so. Our nation has an important history of welcome immigrants and refugees, and they have only made our communities stronger. Our country and our communities are better when we act with compassion.”
“We cannot get confused between two different entities. One is the government’s role in protection and the second is the believer’s role in love. They go hand in hand,” Pastor Ryan Rush of Baptist Church Kingsland in Austin, Texas, preached Sunday. “… Man, left to his own ingenuity, will try to solve every problem with aggression and violence. That’s the only way we know. But I would submit to you that this problem will not be solved with guns alone. Hearts are going to have to change.”
“Throughout history, the U.S. been a welcoming country for those seeking refuge from violence and persecution,” said Police Chief Mike Tupper of Marshalltown, Iowa. “Ours is not a country that turns its back on people who are seeking to escape the ravages of war and who desperately need our help. It is now more important than ever that our country stand upon its principles of compassion and grace. Our country is better when we lead with courage and compassion. We cannot allow fear to become our guide. If we do, the enemies of freedom have scored a devastating victory that will be difficult to overcome.”
“Across the country, local law enforcement, faith leaders, and mayors are standing with refugees and urging compassion,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “We can acknowledge and address our fears without turning our backs, and we must. The response from Congress must not be to ratchet up the refugee screening process from ‘stringent’ to ‘impossible.’”