I am heartened to see that one Republican neighbor is willing to call Ron Branstner, the leader of tonight’s anti-immigrant hate session, “kind of a wack job” and say that Branstner “has people scared for no reason.”
I am heartened to see another Republican, columnist and professor Art Marmorstein, call for South Dakota and the United States to welcome more Middle Eastern refugees, not bar the door. Recalling his own family connection to refugees (Marmorstein’s dad’s cousin escaped Austria “shortly before the Holocaust began in earnest”), Marmorstein says in today’s AAN column that we should be doing more to help people targeted for genocide:
Both international and American law suggest that, if anything, those targeted for genocide should be the highest-priority refugees. Instead, Syrian Christians, Yazidi, Druze, Sufi and Shiite Muslims have been pushed to the back of the line.
In recent months, President Obama has worked to fulfill his promise to the U.N. that we’d take in 10,000 Syrian refugees. Unfortunately, this hasn’t helped Syrian Christians at all: Only 56 have been resettled in the United States, according to an estimate by Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, in a Newsweek opinion piece.
Meanwhile, House and Senate bills like the Religious Persecution Relief Act — bills that might aid those fleeing genocide — languish in committee, and the nation in general turns it back on the latest Holocaust [Art Marmorstein, “Refugee Resettlement Doesn’t Address Christians,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.09.21].
Marmorstein hints at a theme popular in the Fox/Breitbart jabberverse, that the Obama Administration and the United Nations discriminate against Christian refugees. Those right-squawkers can point to raw numbers—Syria’s population is 10% Christian, but a far smaller percentage of Syrian refugees are Christian. But citing those raw numbers as evidence of discrimination against Christians ignores important facts:
- Sunni Muslims, who make up a higher percentage of Syrian refugees than of the Syrian population, “tend to support the Syrian rebels and oppose the Assad regime.”
- A higher percentage of Syrian Christians “support Assad” (himself a minority Alawaite Muslim) “and feel safer with him there.”
Syrian Christians can seek refugee status in the United States just like any other group that feels threatened in their homeland. We should open our doors to all such threatened people so they may enjoy the safety, liberty, and opportunity of the United States, either temporarily until their homelands become safe again or permanently as proud new Americans, whichever they choose.
The Trumpist paranoiacs out there should froth over Marmorstein’s call for compassion as much as at mine. Syrian Christians look a lot like Syrian Muslim. If ISIS operatives can lie their way through four to ten months of UN review and another year or two of the American refugee vetting process, they can easily add one more lie to their application and check “Christian” instead of “Muslim.” If certain not-white-ophobes can’t believe that the President of the United States is Christian, even though the President lives a very public life among us and has publicly professed Christian faith for decades, then how can they trust strangers from an ISIS hotbed making the same claim?
But let’s not complicate the issue. Dr. Marmorstein agrees that we should help refugees. My Republican neighbor and commenter DR seems to agree that we don’t need to be scared of refugees. Now if we could just get our Republican elected officials and candidates to join us in that agreement and put the anti-immigrant hysteria outsider are whipping up in Aberdeen to rest.