How refusing refugees is the wrong choice


by the Simpsonian Editorial Board

Basic first-grade history includes the story of pilgrims leaving Europe to seek out a new home where they could exercise religious freedom and seek a better life.

Those people were fleeing persecution. Those people were seeking refuge.

And so are the people of Syria who are themselves persecuted by the terrorists behind recent attacks in Paris, on a Russian flight and in Beirut, among many previous.

Gov. Terry Branstad, along with more than half of U.S. state governors, declared Iowa a no-refugee zone following the weekend’s attacks in Paris.

As the article on page 1 says, ISIS claimed responsibility for the coordinated killings of at least 129 at locations scattered across the city.

While the concern of terror threats in the U.S. is valid and of utmost importance, the denial of refugees will not inherently protect the country from these threats. Iowa, for one, has a strong history of accepting refugees fleeing persecution and death in their home countries.

Under former Gov. Robert Ray, Iowa accepted refugees from Vietnam, a hotly contested decision as well.

The choice to refuse refugees, and it is a choice, stems from fear.

This is not about protection or national security. Again, the editorial board asks our readers and fellow Iowans to call it what it is.

Branstad and his fellow government officials are playing into the hands of the terrorists by doing exactly what they would want. By creating another environment of xenophobia, Iowa and other states are just more places Syrians in exile cannot live in peace.

Refugees are not simply people moving from one country to another. They are, by the United Nations’ definition, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

The process of finding asylum as a refugee is not as simple as walking across a border and joining another population.

The U.N. has an extensive screening process in place before any resettlement takes place.

Former U.S. representative to the United Nations and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright is herself a refugee, having fled from Czechoslovakia with her family when she was a young child.

“We have always been a generous nation, and we have in place a rigorous process for refugee resettlement that balances our generosity with our need for security,” Albright said. “It works, and it should not be stopped or paused.”

Iowa’s policy and the United States’ treatment of refugees will no doubt be contested further.

The role of Simpson College and the students, faculty and staff communities is to strive toward tolerance and inclusivity on our campus and work for it in our state and country.

President Jay Simmons and our college chaplain, Mara Bailey, have made strides to both address issues head-on and open a dialogue into further examination and understanding of issues.

We at The Simpsonian see the work and dedication of our college officials to maintain decorum and tolerance within our institution. We just hope our campus community can act as a jumping-off point for our state and nation.