COMMENTARY: I urge the president, Congress, and the nation’s governors to follow a balanced, fact-based approach to the issues regarding refugees fleeing terrorism and violence in Syria.
Congress has an obligation to conduct oversight of the vetting process, but we shouldn’t let our fears lead us. Potential refugees today are interviewed in person multiple times, screened for biometric data, and they undergo a health check and several layers of background reviews. We should carefully examine the process to ensure we’re rigorously scrutinizing potential refugees – and improve on it if necessary.
But blanket refusals to help innocent people, including mothers and orphans who are desperately seeking safety from ISIS violence, are a rejection of the values that our country was founded on and feed into terrorist propaganda.
We are witnessing a worldwide refugee crisis worse than anything we’ve seen since World War II. In Syria, more than 12 million people have fled their homes during the civil war – more people than Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and the Indian Ocean tsunami combined.
Many are women, and half of them are children, and they are struggling to survive. Millions of Syrian refugees have been living in temporary camps without access to adequate health care or the ability for children to attend school, putting an entire generation of young people at risk.
Refusing to help those who have passed repeated vettings will not keep us safer. It will fuel the terrorists’ hateful anti-Western ideology.
We are not at war against a religion; we’re fighting radical extremist thugs who are driven by violence and hatred. Knee-jerk, fear-driven policies that would deny help to desperate children and innocent families are contrary to America’s history and values and have no place in a must-pass bill to keep our government operating.
Udall, a Democrat, is a U.S. senator from New Mexico.