At least 31 state governors seek to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in their states, according to national news reports.
The governors reacted to Friday’s attacks in Paris by issuing executive orders and sending requests to federal officials, including President Obama, to deny resettlement of refugees within their states.
House Speaker, Paul Ryan, has also expressed his opposition to taking in refugees. Such actions ignited debates as to whether states hold the authority to refuse people’s refuge based on their nationality.
Andrew Heldenbrand, John Brown University sophomore, prayed that state leaders can overcome fear and do the right thing.
“We are supposed to approach threats with courage and love, not use fear as an excuse to deprive the needy of care,” Heldenbrand said. “How can we claim that our country has some kind of higher ideology when we run and hide at the first sign of danger? I’m ashamed of these governors,” he said, referring to his birth state, Indiana, and current state of residence.
Many of the governors believe that relocating refugees in their state is not the best solution because it poses a risk to residents.
Isaac Weaver, senior communication major, said Christians are called to help the needy, even when doing so could be risky. “Fear should never take precedent over compassion. Christ calls us to help those in need, and that’s not just when we feel it is safe or convenient for us,” Weaver said.
Zachary Wisniewski, a former University student, shared Heldenbrand and Weaver’s sentiments.
“People are dying needlessly,” Wisniewski said. “We are no better than terrorist organizations when we perpetuate the violence, and when we allow those who are abused and most affected by these violent ideologies to remain in a hostile environment while
we ‘love from afar…’ We have become part of the terror itself…Let’s remember our Christian and American ideals. Let’s be the light in the dark. Lord have mercy on us all.”
Gov., Asa Hutchinson, of Arkansas is one of the governors who is attempting to block Syrian refugees from resettling in his state. He issued a statement about the refugees on Monday.
“As governor, I oppose any facility or installation in Arkansas being used as a Syrian refugee center. Many of the Syrian refugees are fleeing violence in their own country but
Europe, Asia, or Africa are logically the best places for resettlement or for temporary asylum,” he said.
“Syria is a war torn country and the United States will support our European friends in fighting ISIL in Syria and elsewhere; however, this is not the right strategy for the United States to become a permanent place for relocation. Again, I oppose Arkansas being used
as such a relocation center.”
Most of the Syrian refugees have gone to Europe and its surrounding countries. The United States accepted 1,854 refugees through September, and President Obama’s administration
has plans to increase that number to 100,000 by 2017, according to USA Today.
Governors are calling to close their borders to refugees because of the possibility that refugees seeking sanctuary in the U.S. might include people with terrorist ties.
Leah Guy, senior psychology major, said the problems are complex and it is difficult to know which solution is best.
“We ought to take our national security so seriously. ISIS is scary and capable of doing incredible damage. But the vast majority of Syrian refugees are attempting to flee ISIS,” Guy said.
“What happened in Paris is an inexpressible tragedy because the result is not only that hundreds of Parisians were killed and wounded, but thousands of desperate Syrians were also denied asylum. Those Syrians are the primary victims, and it is horrific to think that we are punishing them by associating them with the very people who have bombed their
homes and killed their children,” she said.
Guy said she observed her Facebook friends changed their profile picture when the Paris attacks happened, but was frustrated that more than 220,000 people have died in Syria over the last four years and their pictures hadn’t changed for those tragedies.