Tell Your Governor to Welcome Syrian Refugees

I don’t talk straightforward politics on this blog often—in moments of enormity, I (like many people, I think) feel overwhelmed.  What can be done?  What can be said?

But yesterday I was reading Kay Ryan, and came across this poem:

Silence, by Kay Ryan

Silence is not snow,
It cannot grow
deeper. A thousand years
of it are thinner
than paper. So
we must have it
all wrong
when we feel trapped
like mastodons.


It’s been a bad week for humanity.  Tragedies have struck Beirut and Paris.  As of Tuesday afternoon, half of the governors of American states—including Governor Baker of Massachusetts, my commonwealth—have responded to these horrors by attempting to close their states to Syrian refugees.  They have voiced this intention with their actual mouths.  They have written it with their actual hands.

This reaction sickens me.  It doesn’t help that these statements don’t actually mean anything, because refugee policy is federal.  I see at least two possibilities: Baker and the others don’t know the law, in which case they’re dumb and dickish, or they do know the law, and are taking the opportunity to grandstand as “tough on terror” at the expense of a vulnerable population which has been massively underserved by the USA, in which case they’re smart and dickish.  Dicks either way.

When I called Governor Baker about his remarks, the aide on the other end of the line responded with “but he just wants to keep you safe!!11one,” which, well.  Let’s set aside the fact that that this same argument was used to turn away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust.  Let’s set aside indications that in the US immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the general population.  Let’s set aside the enormous piles of rhetoric in which our US of A indulges on the reg about hungry masses yearning to breathe free, and disregard our tendency to speechify about cities and hills.  Even if we set aside all these things, and we shouldn’t, the refugee resettlement process is already stringent and rigorous (to the point of absurdity, to my mind).

I’m grateful to my friend Chelsea Purvis, who works at a humanitarian agency, for this summary:

It’s worth being clear about what resettlement is and is not. Resettlement is not when someone crosses a border into the US and seeks asylum. Resettlement is when a person flees one country (say, Syria) to a second (say, Turkey) and then proves to a UN expert that she is a refugee. Then, through a highly regulated process, she applies for a home in the US. She proves again to multiple US agencies that she is a refugee, and she undergoes extraordinarily rigorous security and background checks. She can’t change her email address or phone number or have a baby without going through additional security checks. Months or years later, she may be allowed to be resettled in the US.

Not a single refugee resettled in America has ever committed, or even been arrested for, domestic terrorism. In fact, there is arguably no immigrant group more tightly screened than resettled refugees. Refugees come here, get jobs (they have to), pay back the debt of their travel fees (they have to), and often do really amazing things for their new home communities (check out some of these people:

There has been no proven link between any of the terrorists in Paris to migrant/refugee flows into southern Europe. But even if there were: In Europe, hundreds of thousands of people are pouring into countries that don’t have the capacity or political will to manage these huge migration flows. On top of that, there is still no Europe-wide mechanism for responding. The US simply does not have this problem. We have incredibly tight borders, managed by a strong federal government, and a huge, well-funded system to screen and manage arrivals, backed with political will from every state and both parties. … The security argument is absolutely baseless.

We should be accepting more refugees because we’re in a better position to do so than Europe is.  We should be accepting more refugees because Fifth Generation Warfare.  We should be accepting more refugees because people are suffering, we can help, and it’s the right thing to do.

If you live in one of the states listed below, take five minutes to protest your Governor’s position via phone or email.  Tell them we should welcome refugees, not slam the doors on them.  (The International Refugee Assistance Project has more good advice about who to call and what to say.)   If your state is not on this list, maybe seek out your Governor & thank them for not being abjectly horrible.

Governor’s Name Governor’s Phone Governor’s Email
Alabama Robert J Bentley 334.242.7100
Arizona Doug Ducey 602.542.4331
Arkansas Asa Hutchinson (501) 682-2345
Florida Rick Scott (850) 488-7146
Georgia Nathan Deal 404-656-1776
Idaho Butch Otter (208) 334-2100
Illinois Bruce Rauner 217-782-0244
Indiana Mike Pence 317-232-4567
Iowa Terry Branstad 515-281-5211
Kansas Sam Brownback 785-296-3232
Louisiana Bobby Jindal
Maine Paul LePage 207-287-3531
Massachusetts Charlie Baker 617.725.4005
Michigan Rick Snyder 517-373-3400,4668,7-277-57827-267869–,00.html
Mississippi Phil Bryant 601.359.3150
Nebraska Pete Ricketts 402-471-2244
Nevada Brian Sandoval (775) 684-5670
New Hampshire Maggie Hassan (603)271-2121
New Jersey Chris Christie 609-292-6000
New Mexico Susana Martinez 505-476-2200
North Carolina Pat McCrory (919) 814-2000
Ohio John Kasich (614) 466-3555
Oklahoma Mary Fallin (405) 521-2342
South Carolina Nikki Haley 803.734.2100
Tennessee Bill Haslam (615) 741-2001
Texas Greg Abbott (512) 463-5739
Wisconsin Scott Walker (608) 266-1212

You can donate to the French Red Cross here, and to the Lebanese Red Cross here.

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