UPDATE: Since this article was first published, CNN reports that a total of 25 Republican governors will not allow refugees in their states. Governors in Kansas, North and South Carolina, Iowa and Kansas are among the latest Republicans to jump on the band wagon.
In a response designed to score political points, eleven governors announced Monday that they will not allow Syrian refugees in their states. The Republican governors of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Texas, and Wisconsin say there’s a chance the refugees include people with terrorist ties. More governors are expected to jump on the bandwagon. Despite the commitment of the U.S. to take in at least 10,000 refugees this year, fourteen states, mostly with Republican governors, have not admitted any refugees so far.
While the president was speaking in Turkey on the refugee crisis, Louisiana’s governor Bobby Jindal tweeted “I just signed an Executive Order instructing state agencies to take all available steps to stop the relocation of Syrian refugees to Louisiana.” He was joined shortly by other Republican governors making similar statements. One Democrat, the governor of New Hampshire, joined the Republicans.
Republican presidential candidates have jumped on the train. Ted Cruz said that “anyone with an ounce of common sense would say ‘no, we shouldn’t be bringing in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.’” Marco Rubio told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” Sunday that the U.S. shouldn’t accept any refugees from Syria. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the United States should focus on assisting Christians in Syria. Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee have also joined presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal in shunning refugees.
This is a case of blaming the victims. The millions of refugees are not the perpetrators of the violence; they are the victims of violence. They are not ISIL supporters; they are fleeing ISIL and barrel-bombs from Syria’s president Assad.
President Obama indirectly addressed this Republican action Monday at his news conference at the end of the G20 Summit in Turkey. “When I hear folks say that maybe we should just admit the Christians and not the Muslims (refugees),” Obama said. “When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted—when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution—that’s shameful. That’s not American,” the president asserted.
The president responded to Republican critics that attack him for not referring to ISIL and other terrorists as “Islamic.” Obama said that he and George Bush disagree on many issues, but after 911, he was very proud of President Bush. Bush reminded the nation that we were not at war with Islam. He told us we were attacked by a band of blood thirsty terrorists, not Islam. Obama told reporters that it is unreasonable to blame an entire religion for the actions of a few murderers.
Republican presidential hopefuls are blaming Barack Obama for the attack in Paris. They are trying to get air time by blasting the president and his “failed” policy on defeating ISIL. What Republicans never admit, however, is that nearly a year ago, President Obama asked Congress for a resolution to authorize the war on ISIL. Neither the Republican-controlled House nor the Republican-controlled Senate has taken a vote on any authorization for force.
It is easier for Republicans to blast Obama for doing nothing than to defend a vote to authorize military action against ISIL down the road. Republicans are aware that Hillary Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War haunts her to this day. Republicans want it both ways. They want to blame Obama for doing nothing while not do anything themselves.
Republicans regularly blast Obama for “leading from behind.” They say he should convince our allies to join in the fight against terror. The refugee crisis has created a humanitarian crisis for all of our allies. Jordan, Turkey, and our European allies are being over-run by refugees fleeing violence from war waged in the Middle East. If the United States sits by and does not take in our share of refugees, it will become difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to get our allies to help us fight ISIL.
The action of these Republicans is short-sighted in addition to being mean-spirited and un-Christian. Pope Francis, speaking to a joint session of Congress, urged the United States to take in refugees—not just Christian refugees as Bush and Cruz have suggested—but all refugees. Perhaps it is time to end the hypocrisy.