“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Matthew 25:35
I was appalled but not surprised when one governor after another began to announce that they would not welcome Syrian refugees into their states. It was a symbolic but mostly toothless gesture, as they all knew. The Federal government settles refugees where it sees fit. But in announcing that they opposed welcoming refugees from the war-torn land, they were playing to their audience in an election year: the poor, white lower and middle class that feels squeezed and fears the “browning” of America. Fighting terrorism and calling up the specter of violence has long been a mask for bigotry.
The fact is that we have a thorough and comprehensive vetting program for resettling refugees. It is one of the shames of our immigration policy, how little we do to quell the suffering of people living in war-torn lands all over the world. With ample space and resources, we shut the door on way too many people. In a crisis that has displaced over four million people, we have so far taken in around fifteen hundred (versus the 2 million that Turkey has taken in and the 1.1 that Lebanon has). The ten thousand we had pledged to take are going through a background check unmatched in most countries accepting refugees.
The (mostly Republican) governors symbolically refusing entry to refugees, a vast number of whom are children, know this. They know that the refugees pose no real threat, and that if one of the Paris terrorists did sneak in through the refugee route, the danger of that happening here, with our oceans to protect us, and our comprehensive background checks, is infinitesimally small. They are using the fear engendered after the horrific violence in Paris for political gain, exploiting people’s existing prejudices, simply for air time and for votes. The fact that they can use this, knowing that real human beings will suffer as a result of their posturing is about as disgusting a thing as I can fathom.
The Republican party is lost, pandering to special interests that make it take on increasingly grotesque positions. What’s worse is the hypocrisy of what they stand for. They talk a lot about Christianity and living by the principles of Jesus. But they don’t remember a thing about what the Biblical Jesus stood for. If Jesus were a stranger standing at their door today, they would shut it right in his face. As it says in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.”
It’s one of those moments that we have to decide what we stand for. Right now, I am ashamed what we’re telling the world about ourselves.