Don’t let fear change values

Have we allowed fear to get the better of us?

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, suspicion has bled from its proper focus on the Islamic State to include refugees who are fleeing two of the countries — Syria and Iraq — infested by the terrorists.

The foundations of that fear are suspect. All of the perpetrators identified so far by French authorities appear to be European nationals, specifically either French or Belgian citizens, many of whom have made trips to Syria. But the only connection to Iraqis or Syrians caught between ISIS and a brutal Syrian dictator, is a passport found near the body of one of the attackers. The passport, if authentic, belongs to a Syrian national who entered Europe through Greece in October. But the British newspaper, The Independent, quoted an official French source who noted that the passport might have been planted by the terrorists as propaganda, meant to create fear among the countries now receiving refugees.

If that was the terrorists’ intent, it worked.

Just days after the attack, a parade of governors, state legislators, members of Congress and presidential candidates called for an immediate halt to the U.S. program to accept refugees from Syria and Iraq and stricter vetting of refugee candidates. The U.S. House, without allowing hearings or careful review, passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, which calls for a duplicative and onerous system of checks for refugees from Syria and Iraq.

A few officials from Washington were exceptions to the rule. When more than 30 other governors said they would not accept refugees, Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee pledged in an interview with National Public Radio and an op-ed column in The New York Times that his state would not turn away those who had been reviewed and cleared by the federal government. Likewise, U.S. Reps. Suzan DelBene, D-1st District, and Rick Larsen, D-2nd District, also expressed support to continue acceptance of refugees.

Larsen, in a release, said that shutting out Syrian refugees would allow ISIS to claim that Muslims aren’t welcome in the U.S., providing them another propaganda tool. Larsen also refuted claims that refugees aren’t already carefully vetted, noting the screenings currently required by the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, and the departments of Homeland Security, State and Defense, a process that takes anywhere from 18 months to two years.

DelBene co-sponsored legislation offered as an alternative to the SAFE Act that would have reaffirmed the checks above for all refugees, not just those from Syria and Iraq, and would have required Homeland Security’s inspector general to submit monthly reports to Congress on refugee applications.

Even if the SAFE Act is approved by the Senate, President Barack Obama has said he will veto the bill. In that event, it’s unlikely the House will take up the alternative legislation, a DelBene spokeswoman said, calling into question how seriously members of Congress believe the vetting process is in need of reform.

In truth, there are no guarantees that someone who comes to the United States would not use his or her refugee status as cover for a terrorist plot. But ISIS, al-Qaida or any group seeking to attack our nation from within its borders would have an easier time and quicker route by using a tourist visa than posing as a refugee.

Since 2014, only about 2,000 Syrian refugees have been allowed into the U.S. Of those, about 25 are here in Washington state. Ultimately, the U.S. has agreed to allow in about 5 percent of those fleeing the Islamic State.

As the United States, France and other nations build a coalition to combat and eliminate ISIS, the United States has a duty to share in the humanitarian response to accept refugees from the region.

At the height of the Iraq War, when our fears over terrorism were just as sharp as they are now, the citizens of Snohomish County welcomed more than 1,000 Iraqi refugees, including an Iraqi boy, Muhammed “Humoody” Jauda, blinded by insurgents who shot him in the face when he was 2 years old.

A Snohomish couple became Humoody’s legal guardians and he was granted asylum in 2008. Humoody, who now uses his adoptive parents’ name Smith as his last name, is now 12 years old and hopes to become a U.S. citizen when he turns 18.

A year ago, Humoody told The Herald’s Amy Nile how he uses his life story to challenge people to see things from someone else’s perspective:

“People get stereotypes from what they think, instead of what’s actually there.”

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Sunday, May 16

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Zoe Charlebois, 10, left, and Makayla Goshen, 10, laugh as they make their friendship first aid kits during the InspireHER event at Snohomish Boys & Girls Club on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 in Snohomish, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: For 75 years a safe place to hang out and more

The Boys Girls Clubs of Snohomish County have served the needs of kids and families for 75 years.

FILE - In this July 31, 2013, file photo, tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest are reflected in a pool of water as they make their way to Nugget Falls in Juneau, Alaska. The U.S. Forest Service announced plans Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, to lift restrictions on road building and logging in Tongass National Forest, a largely pristine rainforest in southeast Alaska that provides habitat for wolves, bears and salmon. Conservation groups vowed to fight the decision. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
Viewpoints: Nature priceless, but it should have a price

Would we be more likely to protect the natural world if we understood its value economically?

Comment: Medicare for All could have saved lives during covid

By assuring life-saving medications and care, a single-payer system would save 69,000 lives a year.

Comment: Covid is refuting the case for Medicare for All

Medicare didn’t improve outcomes for seniors during the pandemic; it won’t for the rest of us.

Support for 988 suicide hotline needed in state

May is Mental Health Month. By urging my public officials to prioritize… Continue reading

Island County not responsible for wreck on Camano Island

A recent lawsuit settlement will be struck down by the state Supreme… Continue reading

RGB version
Editorial cartoons for Saturday, May 15

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

In this Wednesday, March 24, 2021 image from video provided by Duke Health, Alejandra Gerardo, 9, looks up to her mom, Dr. Susanna Naggie, as she gets the first of two Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations during a clinical trial for children at Duke Health in Durham, N.C. In the U.S. and abroad, researchers are beginning to test younger and younger kids, to make sure the shots are safe and work for each age. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)
Editorial: Parents have decision to make on vaccinating kids

With one vaccine now approved for kids 12 and older, parents shouldn’t wait for a school requirement.

Most Read