COMMENTARY: Here in Santa Fe, a city of immigrants, in New Mexico, a state of immigrants, and in America, a nation of immigrants, all of whom came here originally seeking refuge and liberty, it has been heartbreaking to watch governor after governor refuse to come to the aid of a world in crisis.
Considering our history and our culture, I expected and hoped for better from our own leaders, but have been disappointed to see nothing but fear, xenophobia, and isolation in response to the inhuman acts of terror perpetrated in Paris.
In a letter earlier this year, I joined other mayors in commending President Obama for his commitment to welcome Syrian refugees, and I stand by that. The people fleeing Syria now are in some of the darkest days of their lives, running from the very terrorism we seek to fight. Basic American values call on us not to bar the way or abandon them to their fate.
Instead, with an eye to the symbol standing proudly in New York Harbor, we are called upon to open our arms to the “huddled masses” who now more than ever need us to live up to the original promise of this nation.
Those values are being put to the test, and we get to decide how we will respond to this challenge, as we have responded to every challenge that has come before this one. But we can only call them our values if we stand by them even when it is difficult to do so.
Every wave of people seeking refuge and freedom in this country has been met with the same tired message we are hearing now. And each in its own time has overcome that to add another layer of strength and richness to our nation.
I believe we can jealously guard our national security without losing our national identity. Syrian refugees will already face a screening process that includes vetting from the United Nations, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In the face of terror it is easy to forget who we are. I don’t think New Mexicans or Americans want to go down that road, and our leaders should stand up and call on the better angels of our human nature to help make sure we never do.
Gonzales, a Democrat, is Santa Fe’s mayor.