U.S. Needs a Refugee Response Worthy of Our Values

Communications Associate

November 18, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As security concerns drive the conversation regarding refugees, foreign affairs experts and others are calling for a compassionate and rational conversation that adheres to our nation’s values.

Ryan C. Crocker, dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kuwait, writes in a new Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The U.S.’s vigorous screening process involves vetting from multiple security agencies … No population entering the U.S. is more closely examined than refugees.

“ … So far in this crisis the U.S. isn’t behaving like a great power built on principles,” he continues. “But it isn’t too late to mount a response worthy of the nation, and of the grand sentiments in Emma Lazarus’s poem.”

“I am deeply disturbed by the calls to shut our nation’s doors to properly vetted Syrian refugees fleeing terrorism and persecution in their native land,” writes Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State and a onetime refugee from Czechoslovakia. “ … We have always been a generous nation, and we have in place a rigorous process for refugee resettlement that balances our generosity with our need for security. It works, and it should not be stopped or paused.”

Weighing in on the debate during a conference in Alabama on Monday, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “What the United States has done is to be open to people who are fleeing tyranny, who are fleeing danger, but we have done it in a very careful way that has worked for us.”

Government officials aren’t the only ones raising concerns about backlash to refugee resettlement. So are national and local faith leaders.

Alan Cross, a Southern Baptist pastor from Alabama, writes in a poignant blog post, “No visitor to the United States is more scrutinized than a refugee from a conflict zone. [But] as is often the case, the weakest and most vulnerable are the ones who serve as pawns or who have the door slammed in their faces.

“ … We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, not send him away with a door shut in his face. Right now, the Syrian refugees fleeing violence are our neighbors. The better way of Jesus calls us to open our arms to those who are legitimately in need while also driving a spike through the wheel of injustice and violence that would seek to do more harm to the innocent.”

“Unfortunately, many political leaders have taken the horrific attacks in Paris as an opportunity to call for closing our doors to refugees,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. “We have intense security measures in place to screen refugees. These are people fleeing violence and persecution.

“America is better when we lead with freedom, not fear. We cannot allow fear to dictate our decisions. We must act with requisite caution, but also with compassion and moral clarity.”