Tea Party Governor Gregg Abbott (R-Texas) held a moment of silence for the victims of the attacks in Paris and then said he had sent a letter for President Obama formally notifying the president that Texas will no longer accept any Syrian refugees, because of what happened in Paris. “They do not have the capability to distinguish between those refugees who can pose as terrorist, and those who may be innocent, and until the United States develops that capability it is essential that we do first things first, and that is to keep the people of the state of Texas safe,” he said. Of course Abbott is not alone, there are presently 31 state governors who will not admit refugees, and not surprisingly all but one have Republican governors. However, as Lavinia Limon, head of the U.S Committee for Refugees and Immigration noted, the Refugee Act of 1980 says governors cannot refuse to resettle refugees.
The belief that there is a security gap is echoed by Texas State Representative Tony Dale (R-Cedar Park), who in a display of stunning hypocrisy, wrote a letter yesterday to Senator Jon Coryn (R-Texas) asking him “to imagine a scenario were [sic] a refugees [sic] is admitted to the United States, is provided federal cash payments and other assistance, obtains a drivers license and purchases a weapon and executes an attack?” This is a man who consistently opposed background checks for gun purchases and who wears his ‘A’ rating from The National Rifle Association (NRA) as a badge of honor for doing their bidding. “I am an avid sportsman and hunter and appreciate the effort of both organizations to protect my right to enjoy the personal use of firearms. I will work tirelessly with the NRA and TSRA to make sure these rights are never in jeopardy,” he said. Dale also said “I’m not saying all of these people are bad…” So what is really at stake here is their gun rights in Texas versus the humanitarian need for sheltering people fleeing from a brutal regime.
Ironically, there is a very rigorous process for anyone seeking to enter the United States as a refugee – a process much more stringent than it takes to purchase a firearm. Refugees must initially seek asylum through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and if it is decided that a person merits consideration, he or she is referred to the United States. A process, according to CNN, which is taking longer than the normal 12 to 18 months for Syrian applications, because of the care being taken in gathering information on the candidates. However, Dale and his colleagues in the Texas legislature believe it more important that ”those attempting to purchase guns through private sales at gun shows in Texas and many other states are not required to undergo any background checks whatsoever” so their priority is err on the side of gun rights.
Forgetting for the moment that there have been more than a million refugees admitted into the United States since 1980, “virtually none have become terrorists, but the U.S. leads the world in mass shootings — almost all of which are perpetrated by people born in America.” Dale’s love of the Second Amendment, as Scott Eric Kaufman notes in Salon, “he’s (Dale) unwittingly advocating a policy of almost unimaginable cruelty — better a white Texan have easy access to firearms than a Syrian refugee be afforded shelter from a murderous regime. If that’s what’s required to defend the mansion on the hill, the question becomes, is it even worth defending anymore?”
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.