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Opinion & Editorial

Ohio’s Refugee Plea

The rumor mill has truly outdone itself this time. Forget everything you’ve heard about Ohio rejecting Syrian refugees and listen to this: a state does not have the power to reject admittance of any group of people. Only our federal government can do that.

So, in essence, the big scandal over the 31 states who are “refusing to reject refugees” is actually a scandal over 31 states who are opposed to letting in Syrian refugees. Of course, states who are opposed to accepting refugees can make the admittance process much more difficult if the American government overrules their opposition, but they can’t really overthrow the decision – it’s not in their hands.

The more concerning idea behind this is that 31 states, that’s 62 percent of our nation, are so passionately against the idea of accepting people who need a safe-haven. A poll from Fortune magazine in July of 1938, on the eve of World War II, shows that 67.4 percent of Americans believed that “German, Austrian, and other political refugees” should be kept out of America. Does that sound familiar?

I’m not going to say that accepting refugees doesn’t come with security risks–but when the illegal immigrant population more than tripled between 1990 and 2013–violent crime declined 48 percent. Sure, refugees and illegal immigrants aren’t the same thing, but the point remains: an influx of migrants into America will not devastate the safety of the American people. In addition to this, we all know that refugees aren’t just let in automatically. On average, it takes a refugee looking to be placed in America 12 to 18 months to be screened and processed extensively and then potentially accepted.

For a country whose foundation was built entirely on the hard work of immigrants, America sure does have a bone to pick with the Syrian refugees. In the words of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, “[w]e have to protect Americans and not lose our soul as America in the process, right? The day America says, ‘Close the gates, build the wall,’ then I say take down the Statue of Liberty because you’ve gone to a different place.” I think that’s exactly right.

America has an obligation to its own people and their safety, but we’re doing everything we can on that front. Shutting out the masses of people fleeing Syria might make us feel safer, but it won’t actually make us safe from terror attacks. Terror is not unique to Syria, and Syrian refugees or those posing as them are not the only people who commit terror crimes. The next generation will almost certainly look back on the rejection of refugees as a failure by America. Is that how we want our children to think of us?

So, what does Ohio’s opposition have to do with this? Well, I would hate to look back and think that Ohio caved to unfounded fear and threw away its picture of what America stands for just because everyone else was doing it.

Our rejection of refugees fleeing war-torn areas just supports the idea that America is anti-Islamic and will inevitably only heighten tensions between Islam and the west. Does Ohio really want to take part in that? Our Mayor, Michael B. Coleman, doesn’t think so. In his words, “[t]he horrific, senseless violence in Paris should cause us to be more resilient against terrorism, but it should not cause us to shut down our borders to those in need of a safe harbor.”

No one state will determine whether America closes its borders to Syrian refugees. This being said, I’m certain that the refugee debate will be so incredibly close that any support for either side of the argument could potentially be groundbreaking. I strongly urge any and all Ohioans to reconsider their ideas about accepting refugees.

You may even think to write Governor John Kasich about this one. He’s a busy man with that presidential election and everything, but shouldn’t all respectable Americans have a little time to think about the refugees?


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