There was a time when America was the first to step up and render aid to countries and peoples in crisis; when our light truly was a shining beacon to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses. Our Country was founded on the premise of welcoming less-fortunate people from other lands seeking the freedoms that we enjoy. Very few of us claim our ancestry from native peoples – we all came here. From different countries, religions, principles and beliefs. But we came in droves. And we were embraced by the liberty offered us by this country.
Oh, our beloved Lady Liberty – what must she have been thinking as she watched the Twin Towers burn amidst the angst of the wounded and survivors? Could she have imagined how deeply and how long that event would change her nation? The stark reality that our enemies exist not just on foreign lands, but could permeate our own soil, would forever alter our lives and the course of our nation.
Fourteen years later, the attacks on France and Belgium. We expected international grief and outrage. And our own American reaction was indeed swift – not merely with readiness and protection, but with our own humanitarian instinct – to help.
Yet, even before the capture of all of the planners, some of us responded in a way that forecasts a win for the cowards who attacked the innocent. Spewing hatred against Western ideals, they decry a manifesto of loathsome separatism – “accept my beliefs, or die – murdered as publicly as possible.”
We must stay true to our values. We must not let the menace of hatred seep into our collective psyche.
Some of our leaders remain steadfast: protect our people, without question. But do so, sensibly. We are blessed with incredible intelligence gatherers; we should listen and learn from the experts in whom we have long placed our confidence. We must not turn our backs on the helpless victims of a horror-focused regime intent on the destruction of its people.
How terribly sad, then, the actions of our own Governor. Clearly without sufficient authority, Greg Abbott has declared that Texas must close its borders to Syrian refugees. He has attempted to force federally funded charitable resettlement organizations to deny federal edicts. And now, in a shockingly bullying move, our Governor apparently intends to sue these portals of peace.
The Syrian refugees are not the enemy. They are women and children; they are mothers and fathers; they are families forced to flee their country stricken with atrocities committed by some of the same terrorists clearly lodged in international cross-hairs.
The deeply saddening unforgettable image of a tiny body in blue shorts and a red shirt – washed up on a lonely beach – his is the threat level presented by the majority of these refugees.
Unlike those crossing our borders illegally or coming in on passports with visas, before stepping foot on American soil, refugees are vetted by the Department of Homeland Security, including fact screening with identity checks against federal databases, fingerprint screening, and investigation by the National Counter-terrorism Center and by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center. They are interviewed by country experts for biographical and geographical truths. The process takes an average of 18-24 months, but can take up to three years before these people find refuge on our shores. Of approximately 2,200 Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S. since 2011, about half were children.
What have we become as a nation when we turn our back on humanity? What have we become as a nation when we let fear drive our decisions? We are a nation founded on the premise of hope and sanctuary. When we denounce our rock-bed principles, even suggesting that entry be based on religion, we offer up the freedom battle to the terrorists seeking to destroy us. We hand over our Americanism. By closing our borders to Syrian refugees, whether figuratively, or in fact, we lose all protection of our own sense of beings. And we hand our country’s heart to those who wish to destroy us. All wrapped up with a bow on top.
As for Lady Liberty? Will we not re-find our hearts? Or do we let her tears snuff out her torch?
Yrian New Colossus (The Statue of Liberty Poem)
By Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”