Waters: Governors against refugees contradict American values

The terrorist organization Islamic State has once again spread violence and terror into the lives of thousands of innocent civilians and captured global attention. The international community is now pressed to launch military strikes in Syria—where IS strongholds are located—and to address the growing migrant crisis.

Many fear we will succumb to Islamophobia and deter Syrian migrants simply based on their religion. As hard as it may be to not focus on the international community’s conflicts, we as a nation must focus on our domestic issues and how we may assist the thousands of displaced Syrians in the world.

Many United States governors have said that their states will not be accepting any Syrian migrants. As of Nov. 19, 31 state governors have protested the admission of Syrian refugees—only one of those governors is a Democrat.

This strikes hard against President Barack Obama, who explained that the U.S. will take in approximately 10,000 refugees over the next fiscal year. Our admission numbers pale in comparison to many countries, however, including France. President Francois Hollande stated that his country would take in 30,000 refugees over the course of the next two years, as well as contributing 50 million euros as funding for the resettlement process.

Of course, citizens of both France and the U.S. are concerned with opening themselves up for possible terrorist attacks by allowing in refugees. As stated by the Washington Post, CNN and a myriad of other mainstream news sources, however, none of the identified terrorists involved in the recent Paris attacks were Syrian nationals. Nevertheless, this information has not stopped 31 U.S. governors from barring Syrian refugee admission into their states.

Unfortunately for these governors, they have relatively little to no legal power regarding this issue. In fact, this was central in the Supreme Court case of Hines v. Davidowitz, when the majority opinion declared, “The supremacy of national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution.”

Moreover, this situation should not even be up for debate due to the Refugee Act of 1980, which empowered the president with even more ability to accept immigrants who face persecution or have fear of possible persecution based on race, religion, nationality or political opinion. It seems state officials must absolutely yield to federal refugee policy.

If so strongly founded in anti-refugee views, however, these governors may be able to make the admissions process difficult or restrict resettlement abilities for refugees. Because states have the right to deny their resources to the federal government, refugees may find housing to be less than readily available and commodities to be scarce. Governors can halt funding of state-held projects, roads and agencies and make admissions processes unmanageable.

As citizens, we should hope that these elected officials base their loud and quick protest in the safety of the American people. Strong screening and U.S. immigration jurisdiction isn’t readily available in Syria, but it is available here.

Perhaps we do need stronger background checks and tougher screening processes to insure that American citizens are not put in harm’s way. Immediately denying thousands of persecuted civilians who are fleeing their war-torn nation based on fear, however, is what IS desires—to strike terror where logic and compassion once existed.

The governors—and many U.S. citizens—need to accept that refugees will be admitted. We must continue on in this process so we hold our nation’s values more than ever before.