If All Lives Matter, Do Refugee Lives Matter?

Fear, when not crippling, is good because it can be utilized to keep someone from danger. However, ISIS and some politicians in the US are making the American people afraid of Syrian refugees.
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We all know of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement. Liberals make this pronouncement to highlight the need to suggest there is a marginalized segment of society. Conservatives have pushed back by saying that 'All Lives Matter'. But alas, several people running for the highest office in the land do not act like all lives matter.

Did you hear the news that Beirut was hit with a twin bombing terrorist attack the day before France was hit? ISIS claimed responsibility for killing 43 people. Lebanon is a diverse but ultimately predominate Muslim country. Do the lives of those 43 innocent people matter less? If the attention in the West is any barometer of interest of which lives "matter," it seems that perhaps the people in Beirut (who happen to be Muslim) matter less than the people in Paris (who are largely not Muslim).

The Successful Use of Fear

Fear, when not crippling, is good because it can be utilized to keep someone from danger. However, ISIS and some politicians in the US are making the American people afraid of Syrian refugees; this cripples the seven decades of generous American tradition of taking in refugees since WWII.

The attacks in Paris raised concern that ISIS terrorists may try to use the refugee process to obtain entry to hosting nations. This has complicated the Obama administration's efforts to help people in need. There is a concern that ISIS may use the refugee process to gain entry to the United States.

However, we have learned that none of the terrorists who attacked in France on 11/13 were refugees. In fact, the evidence seems to suggest that they intentionally tried to create the confusion they have created precisely to complicate the options that refugees leaving Syria have. In fact, there is evidence that in the US, domestic terrorists are the bigger threat than foreign terrorists.

Yet, throughout the United States, governors are stating that they do not want the federal government to send Syrian refugees to their states; a point that is moot since governors don't have the authority to refuse refugees placed by the federal government.

Compounding this sentiment is the fact that 750,000 refugees have been resettled in the United States since 2001, yet not one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges. A trend in recent years finds that there are more homegrown terrorists who are US citizens who have planned to commit acts of terrorism than foreigners.

ISIS seems to have duped millions of people the world over, and several presidential candidates are promoting their lunacy. Tricking us into thinking one way is one thing, but tricking us into behavior that abandons who we are is a whole other victory that ISIS has pulled off.

This is not an entirely unique time in American history. We tend to repeat our mistakes when we don't learn from them. For example, a 1938 poll found that nearly 69 percent of college students said we should not offer a safe haven to Jewish refugees from central Europe.

American Leadership?

Some of the most outrageous statements made have been made by presidential candidates. These include but are not limited to:

  • Jeb Bush stating that we should give preference to Christians over Muslim refugees

  • Ben Carson said we should stop funding any refugee program that would help Syrian refugees
  • Chris Christie saying that he would refuse a 5-year-old refugee or orphan refugees
  • Donald Trump saying that he would send them all back to Syria
  • Ted Cruz filing legislation to introduce legislation banning all Muslim refugees from Syria from entering America. Christian refugees from Syria, however, would be allowed. And he said that "There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror."
  • Marco Rubio stating that we don't have the capacity so we should turn them away
  • Mike Huckabee said we should build encampments for refugees and that we should be "institut[ing] an immediate moratorium on admission to those persons from countries where there is strong presence of ISIS or Al Qaeda."
  • These policy positions are all incredible.
    • Each of these candidates decries ISIS for being brutal and violent but then would turn their backs on the people ISIS is targeting.
    • Each one of these candidates supports the Second Amendment. They make the claim that someone who abuses guns should not lead us to change our laws, yet they do not carry that logic over to the possibility to someone who abuses our asylum and refugee laws and would change our laws.
    • Each one of these candidates is pro life, but clearly only sometimes and certainly not when it applies to Muslims.
    • Each of these candidates support the position are people that say that we can't help refugees until we help our own people in need are the same people who suggest that welfare and support enables the poor.
    • Each one of these candidates believe that America is the strongest and best country the world has ever known, yet they do not believe that we are in a position to help our a persecuted people.
    • Each of these candidates is of the position that all lives matter, equally and unequivocally. Yet, when they are given the chance to prove this, they put Christians ahead of Muslims.

    It does not seem to me that any of these candidates are living up to what the French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville is often quoted as having said:

    "America is great because she is good. When she ceases to be good, she will cease to be great."

    Keeping Perspective

    I am not nearly as concerned about ISIS coming into the United States with refugees as I am a US citizen coming back from abroad after having gotten training from ISIS in the Middle East or Europe. Does this mean that we should deny US citizen passage to and from the United States because a few might abuse that right to travel?

    I think the answer is the same as asking the question if we should deny someone the right to bear arms because a few might abuse that right. To be consistent we should not change our laws and deny people entry into the US because a few may try to abuse our laws. It is worth noting that this has not yet happened, not in France and not in the United States, but fear of what might happen - a fear that ISIS wants us to have - is changing who we are and crippling our ability to help people in need. President Obama perhaps said it best when he said: "The values that we are fighting against ISIS for are precisely that we don't discriminate against people based on their faith."

    Paul Heroux is a state representative from Massachusetts on the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. He lived and worked in the Middle East and has a master's in international relations from the London School of Economics, and from the Harvard School of Government. He can be reached at paulheroux.mpa@gmail.com.

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