The Washington Post compliments South Dakota with an article noting that our fair state welcomes more refugees in proportion to our population than almost every other state. We’re among a top five with North Dakota, Idaho, Nebraska, and Vermont, each of which took in over 100 refugees per 100,000 population over fiscal years 2013 and 2014.
True. The men who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013 moved from Dagestan to America with their family in 2002. But the Tsarnaevs were not terrorists in disguise taking advantage of our willingness to admit refugees. According to the article Hilgemann linked, they would have been 15 and 8 when they arrived. Their mother told Russian television shortly after the bombing that her older son got involved in religious politics around 2008. The younger son (the one who survived and was sentenced to death this summer) didn’t turn to radical Islam until very shortly before the April 2013 bombing.
I can understand where Hilgemann’s concern about the danger of opening our doors to refugees may be coming from. Any time you let your neighbors in your house, there’s a chance someone will knock over a lamp or insult your guests (oh yeah, South Dakota Blogosphere Picnic today at my house! Let’s all play nicely!).
But he’s more likely repeating the political grumpiness of Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who has said President Obama’s plan to take in a measly 10,000 Syrian refugees (remember, 4,000,000 Syrians have fled the violence in their country) could lead to another Boston Marathon bombing. Sure, Syria is the S in ISIS, and Jason Ravnsborg has told us ISIS is coming to get us, but the Administration is aware of the threat of terrorist infiltration, and that’s exactly why we’re acting so slowly to help the Syrian refugees:
So far, the United States has lagged far behind several European countries in its refugee aid efforts, largely due to the time-consuming screening procedure to block Islamist militants and criminals from entering the United States under the guise of being legitimate refugees.
…The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has submitted more than 18,000 names to the U.S. government. But it takes 18 to 24 months for the average Syrian refugee to be investigated and granted refugee status.
Earnest emphasized Thursday that while the announcement was a way of scaling up the administration’s response to the crisis, “it does not, however, reflect the intent by the administration to cut any corners when it comes to the security protocols that are in place, prior to any refugee traveling to the United States” [Juliet Eilperin and Carol Morello, “President Obama Directs Administration to Accept at Least 10,000 Syrian Refugees in the Next Fiscal Year,” Washington Post, 2015.09.10].
Where the U.S. lags in taking in refugees, it leads in providing material support. USAID reports that since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011 through August 4, 2015, the United States provided $4.1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees, more than any other country.
Given Aberdeen’s own workforce strategy, one would think Brown County would be eager to carry on South Dakota’s tradition of welcoming more immigrants. Even with 240 people a few months away from losing their call center jobs with Wyndham (and 20 more immediately axed at the local Xerox office), there are still hundreds of jobs waiting for someone to fill them in Aberdeen.
Besides, Pope Francis says, “Before the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees fleeing death in conflict and hunger and are on a journey of hope, the gospel calls us to be close to the smallest and to those who have been abandoned.” The Vatican is taking in two refugee families; Aberdeen can take some Syrians, too. Current immigration processes will weed out obvious bad dudes. If we play our cards right—avoid paranoia and instead welcome refugees with equal opportunity to participate in the economic, cultural, and civic life of South Dakota—we won’t have to worry about radical Islam getting its hooks into our new and grateful neighbors.
- This morning’s Aberdeen paper mentions our Karen refugee neighbors and their regular Karen-language church services at First Baptist. More than 2,500 Karen have south refuge in South Dakota from violence and religious persecution in Myanmar. None have yet committed acts of terrorism in Aberdeen or Huron.