It is a time of fear in America.  But fear is not an American value. 

To our great regret now, we turned away Jews who sought safety in America during World War II. Many hundreds died in concentration camps because we closed our borders. We interned over 100,000 Americans of Japanese descent following Pearl Harbor. All because of fear. Let us stand on the side of principle and our values rather than the illusion of a safety no government can ever truly guarantee.

The MS St. Louis was turned away by the US government in 1939.  Many Jews on this boat later died in the Holocaust.  While the situations are not perfectly analogous, there are many similarities.  The nations was gripped in fear of infiltration by those wanting to cause harm.  Outsiders were vilified as a threat.  Those fleeing persecution were seen as a source of possible harm. People were persecuted because of their ethnicity and religion.

The MS St. Louis was turned away by the US government in 1939.  Many Jews on this boat later died in the Holocaust.  While the situations are not perfectly analogous, there are many similarities.  The nations was gripped in fear of infiltration by those wanting to cause harm.  Outsiders were vilified as a threat.  Those fleeing persecution were seen as a source of possible harm. People were persecuted because of their ethnicity and religion.

1. Refugees who enter the United States are vetted more than any other traveler to the US. So the calls for ending Syrian refugee resettlement as a way to keep the homeland safe are a chimera. The only way to even begin to get close to the goal of what ending Syrian resettlement is supposed to solve would be closing all US ports of entry to international travel--permanently. Some of the Paris attackers held French and Belgian passports; both countries have visa waiver agreements with the US. Some were not on watch lists. They could have, with great ease, entered the US and disappeared. So if the goal is truly safety, close the airports, turn away the boats. Otherwise, these are politcal games being played and too many are falling for this illusion of a safety politicians simply can't provide.

2. Refugees are less likely to become terrorists than people born in the United States. They are not to be feared. They work for parts suppliers in Smyrna, they clean hotel rooms at the Opryland Hotel, they cut up the chicken we eat for dinner at Tyson in Shelbyville, they sew clothing at a new apparel manufacturing facility in Nashville. They don't build bombs. They take care of their families and want a life free from the fear of being killed. If terrorists want to enter the US, they would have very little reason to exploit the refugee resettlement program because it's so slow and they would be subject to too much scrutiny. As we know from 9/11, they would enter the US in other ways.

3. The refugees entering Europe arrive in a very different way than how refugees arrive in the US. In Europe, the migrant arrives, makes the asylum claim, and then is processed. The reverse happens with refugees in America. Their claim is processed while they wait in a country to which they have fled. In those camps, they are vetted, interviewed by highly trained teams of USCIS immigration officers, fingerprinted, and checked against a long list of international and US databases. It's a given that most likely records from their home country won't be available. But there are many other ways refugees can be vetted once their biometric data has been obtained. This process can take up to two years.

So yes, we should be concerned about our safety and we should protect the homeland. Turning away those, however, who are already victims of terror in order to pursue a chimera of safety is simply not the America I know.

Let us rise to this moment and be on the right side of history.

Chris Lovingood
Executive Director
Nations Ministry Center

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