Europe and the Middle East are in the midst of the worst refugee crisis the world has seen since World War II and it’s reaching a boiling point. With countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel refusing to do anything to help the millions of displaced families, many people are looking to the United States to step in and help. The Obama administration has expressed desire to take in more than 100,000 refugees over the next few years; but, Republicans are deploying their usual “we can’t help Muslims, they might be terrorists” fear tactic that plays so well to their ignorant base. Now, on the same day Pope Francis urged members of Congress to help the desperate people fleeing horrific violence, 18 Democratic mayors have sent a letter to Obama telling him that they are willing and able to accept refugee families into their cities.
The mayors from Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and 14 other cities told the president:
“We commend your decision to open America’s doors to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees displaced by civil war, and applaud your commitment to increase the overall number of refugees the U.S. will resettle over the course of the next two years…We will welcome the Syrian families to make homes and new lives in our cities. Indeed, we are writing to say that we stand ready to work with your Administration to do much more and to urge you to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept for resettlement.”
Since WWII, the United States has always been a leader, blazing a trail for other nations to follow. We are the country who the rest of the world looks to in a time of need, because the foundation of our country was built upon inclusiveness. Our Statue of Liberty urges the rest of their world to send us their poor; unfortunately the GOP have repeatedly thumbed their noses at this tenet. Their philosophy is:
“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…..but only if those huddled masses are white, male, wealthy Christians.”
Fortunately, President Obama told the government to welcome at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country before the end of the next fiscal year. Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Sunday that he was raising that number to 85,000 refugees in the first year and a total of 100,000 by the end of fiscal year 2017; earlier this year the limit was set at 70,000, but that will be surpassed. This is in addition to the $4 billion in humanitarian aid the resident has sent to the war-torn country since the beginning of their civil war in 2011, and the Secretary announced plans to send $419 million more.
When the GOP found out that Obama was going to help the refugees, they switched into fear-mongering mode. Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said with typical Republican hyperbole that Islamic terrorists could pretend to be refugees to get into the country:
“I am worried that [the Islamic State] could exploit this effort in order to deploy operatives to America via a federally funded jihadi pipeline.”
Senator Ted Cruz has said that we should help the refugees, but only the Christian ones. Senator Rand Paul said that we have to be “very, very careful” when helping, because they might be terrorists and many other Republicans have said the same thing. They all sound an awful lot like their hero Benjamin Netanyahu who said that Israel would not accept any Syrian refugees because he doesn’t want to skew the Jewish demographics in his country.
Fortunately, for the millions of displaced Syrian people, for as many people who are afraid of their ethnicity and religion, there are many more who want to help them. These mayors represent everything that America stands for.
Read the mayors’ letter in full:
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Dear President Obama:
We commend your decision to open America’s doors to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees displaced by civil war, and applaud your commitment to increase the overall number of refugees the U.S. will resettle over the course of the next two years. This announcement is a vital initial step to honoring America’s commitment to support those fleeing oppression.
As the mayors of cities across the country, we see first-hand the myriad ways in which immigrants and refugees make our communities stronger economically, socially and culturally. We will welcome the Syrian families to make homes and new lives in our cities. Indeed, we are writing to say that we stand ready to work with your Administration to do much more and to urge you to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept for resettlement. The surge of humanity fleeing war and famine is the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The United States is in a position to lead a global narrative of inclusion and support. This is a challenge we can meet, and the undersigned mayors stand ready to help you meet it.
Our cities have been transformed by the skills and the spirit of those who come to us from around the world. The drive and enterprise of immigrants and refugees have helped build our economies, enliven our arts and culture, and enrich our neighborhoods.
We have taken in refugees, and will help make room for thousands more. This is because the United States has developed a robust screening and background check that assures us that we know who we are welcoming into this country. With national security systems in place, we stand ready to support the Administration in increasing the numbers of refugees we can accept.
With Pope Francis’ visit, we are mindful of his call for greater compassion in the face of this ongoing crisis and stand with you in supporting those “journeying towards the hope of life.”
Ed Pawlowski, Mayor of Allentown, PA
Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore, MD
Martin J. Walsh, Mayor of Boston, MA
James Diossa, Mayor of Central Falls, RI
Mark Kleinschmidt, Mayor of Chapel Hill, NC
Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, IL
Edward Terry, Mayor of Clarkston, GA
Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton, OH
Domenick Stampone, Mayor of Haledon, NJ
Pedro E. Segarra, Mayor of Hartford, CT
Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, CA
Betsy Hodges, Mayor of Minneapolis, MN
Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City, NY
Jose Torres, Mayor of Paterson, NJ
William Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, PA
Javier Gonzales, Mayor of Santa Fe, NM
Francis G. Slay, Mayor of St. Louis, MO
Stephanie A. Miner, Mayor of Syracuse, NY
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.