Harrison Long | Editorial Writer
I would like to begin by saying that I understand as the duly appointed leader of our fair state, in times of turmoil you must act with your conscience and faith, leading how you see fit despite the opposition sure to come with every decision made.
What took place last Friday in Paris was a tragedy in the purest sense. One-hundred and twenty-nine people and counting, all slaughtered needlessly by a group of radicals, is the definition of terror. I feel comfortable in saying that those responsible will answer for their crimes, be it to the French, the U.S. or the Almighty.
As of this morning, you, along with more than half of the governors across the country, have decided to bar Syrian refugees from entering our fair state. I understand that this could not be an easy decision to make, but as a concerned citizen, I feel it is my duty to speak out when I feel those in power have made the wrong decision. It is a right afforded to me by the First Amendment, a luxury those fleeing terror in Iraq and Syria know nothing about.
According the United States Refugee Act of 1980, which details procedures for providing aid to refugees in need of humanitarian support, the power lies with the federal government to place those in question anywhere in the country. Technically, you cannot bar these people from entering Texas, but cooperating with the federal government would make the process easier for those wishing to begin their journey to a life of liberty.
We all understand that Islamic State cannot be allowed to continue their egregious handiwork against humanity, and it surprises no one that they have declared Washington, D.C., as another eventual target. While the might of the so-called caliphate pales in comparison to the full force of the United States and its military, we cannot make the error of underestimating their appetite for deception.
Turning these desperate refugees away in their darkest hour is unequivocally the wrong answer to the question of ISIS’ extinction. Where might they go? They are attempting to flee the same people who orchestrated the attacks against the French just days ago. And, as NPR has reported, many of these refugees have been in temporary housing in Jordan for the last two years, and aren’t part of the more recent migration.
Make no mistake, the mass migration of Syrians to the United States, and more specifically Texas, is by no means ideal. There are considerable risks in such an undertaking.
Despite this, I have faith in our system to guard us against any “wolf in sheep’s clothing” which might attempt to enter our country under the guise of evacuation. As you well know, our immigration process goes beyond simply flinging open the gates and allowing everyone to dash inside. We have agencies and departments whose very purpose is to screen those wishing to enter. Federal employees are tasked with exercising intense scrutiny toward those seeking amnesty, all to ensure they plan to live within our present values, rather than extort the freedoms we offer for sinister means.
There will always be considerable risk in doing the right thing. That much is certain. We shall not cower in the face of danger. We are not the prey; we are mighty. Our resolve will not be crushed by the wayward thinking of a few lunatics abroad.
Furthermore, keeping refugees out is precisely what the Islamic State wants. Their aim in driving them from their homes and putting them at our doorstep, and by default our mercy, while simultaneously triggering panic among our own population, has given them a golden opportunity to frame us as imposters. They want to show what they feel to be potential recruits that we are not the bastion of freedom we claim to be.
You and I both know that this isn’t true, and the United States, and more certainly Texas, are symbols of hope the world over. And yet, what does it say about us if we aren’t willing to help those who can’t help themselves?
These people are vulnerable and have fled their homes in search of a better life, free of persecution. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Isn’t that what our entire society is founded upon? I am not denying the risk of an attack on our own soil, but this possibility exists regardless. I can’t, however, stand idly by while they are turned away over misplaced paranoia. You may see 20,000 potential terrorists, but I see 20,000 potential Americans.
You have often spoken of being a man of faith, so I will leave you with this verse from 1 John 3:17:
“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
Most humbly yours,
Harrison Gunter Long
University of North Texas