These are people, not symbols – UPDATED with pesky facts

The last minute rejection of the Syrian refugee family by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) is a lot of things (many of which involve curse words) but it should not be used to build court test cases that will only turn these families into victims once again.

Some people are upset that the agencies “gave in” and resettled them elsewhere (thank you, Connecticut!) rather than sending them to places where they are not wanted and would likely be treated badly. People are not symbols, they are flesh and blood and they deserve to be treated well:

[Resettlement agency] Exodus could have stuck to its guns and refused to arrange for the refugees to be redirected. That might have forced a showdown with the state government, if Pence continued to insist the state could prevent refugees from entering. More likely, though, Exodus would have had to resettle the family in Indianapolis on its own — without help from state social services.

The director of the New Haven refugee organization told the Times, “By diverting this family, we don’t want to set a precedent.” […]

The Obama administration could alleviate the resource crunch by sending non-Syrian refugees to states that reject Syrian ones — but that would be a tacit acceptance of the governors’ refusal, something President Obama doesn’t seem willing to countenance.

No, just no. THAT would be a worse precedent, allowing the states to legally discriminate based on religion and country of origin.

What we should do is to ask the State Department to add another criteria to their resettlement process: do NOT send them to states run by politicians who engage in unwelcoming rhetoric. It is a simple test, look for the “R” after their names.

The White House has some more concrete ideas …


How you can get involved:
Under President Obama, the U.S. has provided $4.5 billion in humanitarian assistance to help meet the urgent needs of those affected by the conflict, making America the world’s leading provider of much-needed aid. We are also increasing the number of Syrian and other refugees we admit from around the world on an annual basis to 100,000 in the next two years.
But this isn’t just about what a government can do. It’s about what every single one of us — as a citizen, a company, or an organization — can do to make sure that those displaced or impacted by this crisis have everything they need to survive and find safe haven.

When first arriving, many refugees face the difficult task of starting a new life in a new country. As with prior generations, they are rising to this challenge with the support of a network of refugee-serving organizations located in communities across the country. These organizations provide vital services including: meeting refugees at the airport upon arrival; arranging for housing, food, and clothing; providing cultural orientation; and assisting with access to other social, medical, and employment services.

Click this link to view a map of organizations helping: Enter your zip code into the map to see where you can learn about volunteer opportunities with organizations near you that are helping refugees start anew in your community.

Clouds Over Sidra: A Virtual Reality Documentary on the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Delve into the world of a 12-year-old girl who fled Syria with her family and is living in a refugee camp in Jordan. You can click on the video to get a 360-view of what it’s like to live as a refugee and see the toll this conflict is taking on so many from her eyes.

Watch on Verse

UPDATED with pesky facts*:

ZERO: The number of Syrian refugees that have resettled in the U.S. that have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges. We can welcome refugees and ensure America’s safety and security. Slamming the door in their faces would betray our deepest values, and it’s not what we’re going to do. Get the facts at

*The zero is from these starting points:
– 23,092 Syrians who UNCHR has referred to the United States Refugees Admission Program
– 7,012 Syrians who were interviewed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security since fiscal year 2011
– 2,034 Syrian refugees admitted since FY 2011
And no, this is not a typo:
– 0 settled Syrian refugees who have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges.

Zero, zilch, nada. Or exactly 289 fewer than the number of United States House of Representatives members who voted to halt the resettlement program including 47 cowardly Democrats.


  20 comments for “These are people, not symbols – UPDATED with pesky facts

  1. JanF
    November 19, 2015 at 7:05 am

    President Obama is steadfast in this … he will not allow the hateful rhetoric to change what our government is doing to help those fleeing oppressive regimes.

  2. JanF
    November 19, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Anti-refugee rhetoric is popular and extremely popular with the Republican base:

    The latest NBC News/SurveyMonkey online poll* shows that 56% of Americans disapprove of allowing more migrants fleeing violence in Syria and other nations into the country, while 41% approve […]

    About 8 in 10 Republicans disapprove of accepting more Syrian refugees – including 64% who strongly disapprove. Nearly two thirds of Democrats support the president’s policy, while more independents disapprove (59%) than approve (40%).

    But there is a reason we don’t allow referendums on civil rights and humanitarian aid. In 1939, 60% of Americans did not want any Jewish refugees from Europe. In 1940, people wanted Japanese-Americans interred in camps. In 1960, people did not want black Americans to be able to sit at lunch counters designated “Whites Only”.

    We have a representative government and courts to cool the overheated rhetoric of popular (at the moment) sentiment.

    *Note: This is an online poll and so self-selected. Also, “independents” are usually people too embarrassed to admit that they are Republicans. I will be watching for a Pew poll.

  3. JanF
    November 19, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Religious groups are at odds with their political party:

    Christian charities across the United States have rebuked calls by Republican lawmakers to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the country — a rare show of disagreement between the religious groups and a political party they’ve traditionally supported.

    Following the discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of one of the suicide bombers involved in last week’s deadly attacks in Paris, more than two dozen state governors — most of them Republicans — voiced opposition to President Barack Obama’s plan to resettle up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. […]

    Christian charities and groups in the U.S. that work with refugees have balked at Republicans’ statements and urged support for Syrian refugees of all faiths.

    Syria’s deadly civil war has stretched into a fifth year, with some 250,000 people killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations. The fighting spurred an estimated 4.2 million Syrians to flee the country. While the majority reside in camps in neighboring countries, including Turkey and Jordan, thousands have landed on European shores, sparking a resettlement crisis.

    “We think that their position is very misguided,” Mitzi Schroeder, director of policy for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, told Al Jazeera. “We have resettled 3 million refugees in the U.S. since 1975; they have not been a source of terrorist concern.”

    The head of the Catholic bishops expresses “dismay” that a party of nativist racists would be nativist racists!!

    Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, who chairs the committee on migration for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB), expressed dismay on Tuesday that federal and state officials had called on the U.S. to end the resettlement of Syrian refugees, and pointed out that Syrians were fleeing the very same violence that was inflicted upon Parisians.

    Wake up and smell the stench emanating from your party, Bishop, the Party of Trump … and Cruz … and Ryan … and Christie.

  4. JanF
    November 19, 2015 at 7:44 am

    Senate Democrats want to focus on security, not refugees. For example, the NRA refuses to back down on insisting that terrorists can buy guns:

    The Democratic proposal would shut what the senators describe as a loophole that allows people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list to own or purchase firearms. Between 2004 and 2014, the Government Accountability Office found that suspected terrorists tried to purchase guns through the loophole at least 2,233 times, and were able to do so in 2,043 of those cases.

    Maybe those people should be stopped from doing that instead of blocking 3 year old orphans from entering our country?

    • JanF
      November 19, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      More Democratic reaction:

      “[Sen. Elizabeth] Warren said that the United States isn’t a country that sends ‘children back into the hands of ISIS murderers because some politician doesn’t like their religion, and we are not a nation that backs down out of fear.'”

  5. November 19, 2015 at 7:49 am

    So these big ol’ strong Rethug he-men, who could stare down Putin and make short work of Daesh, are scared of five-year-old children and their mothers?

    UGH! I would be so ashamed to call myself a Rethug!

    Uh…that guy named Jesus…wasn’t he brown-skinned, with long hair and a beard and bare, dusty feet? Would they have kept him out of the country?

    Too disgusted to write any more. May lightning strike the scant-souled.

  6. JanF
    November 19, 2015 at 7:54 am

    President Obama’s response to Paul Ryan’s bill the so-called SAFE Act:

    The White House issued a formal veto threat of a Republican-backed bill to strengthen the screening process for Syrian refugees, saying the House bill would “introduce unnecessary and impractical requirements” to the system.

    The veto threat used the strongest language the White House uses to communicate its opinions on pending legislation, using this phrasing as the punchline: “Given the lives at stake and the critical importance to our partners in the Middle East and Europe of American leadership in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, if the president were presented with H.R. 4038, he would veto the bill.”

    Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the House would vote Thursday on the bill. called the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act, or American Safe Act. […]

    The core of the bill would require three three top administration officials — the Secretary of Homeland Security,the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the FBI — to personally sign off that each Syrian refugee “is not a threat to the security of the United States.”

    That provision, the White House said, “is untenable and would provide no meaningful additional security for the American people, instead serving only to create significant delays and obstacles.”

    Among other things.

  7. JanF
    November 19, 2015 at 7:59 am

    From Missouri: Lawmaker calls for legislature to stop ‘Islamization of Missouri’ by Syrian refugees

    In a letter to House Speaker Todd Richardson calling for a special session, [Republican state Rep. Mike] Moon expresses concern over whether the federal government can adequately scrutinize refugees seeking asylum in the United States. He says he is specifically concerned about Muslim refugees lying to federal authorities in order to make their way into the country. […]

    In addition to calling for a special legislative session, Moon suggests establishing refugee camps to hold Syrians fleeing the war-torn country until they can be “returned safely home when the time is right.”

    Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has already said that Missouri would continue to accept refugees.

  8. Geordie
    November 19, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    This is what I think about when I read these stories about refusal to take in Syrian refugees. My former in-laws – the parents of my ex-husband – were German Jews, living in Berlin before WWII. Ken’s mother was sent to England in the Kindertransport in the mid-30s (I think that was the timing) at about the age of 12, because England would take SOME Jewish children but not their parents. Her parents very fortunately got out to Shanghai at the start of the war, where they suffered terribly during the Japanese occupation but did survive to be reunited with Miriam after the war. Ken’s father and his parents were in Berlin up to the summer of 1941, desperately trying to get out to the US where they had some sort of relative, I was never clear on the connection. The US would NOT take in Jews fleeing persecution except under very rare circumstances – miraculously, this relative managed to get them US visas in August of 1941, and they crossed occupied France in a sealed train, bearing passports with the yellow Star of David on them, and got a boat that took them from Lisbon to New York. 6 months later, after Pearl Harbor, Ken’s father was drafted, at age 18 and speaking very little English, and sent to England where he was a guard at German POW camps. He met Ken’s mother there, and brought her back to the US as a war bride.

    They were the very, very lucky ones – the rest of their extended families in Germany and elsewhere in Europe were murdered by the Nazis. I don’t know how many might have made it to this country and other safe havens if policies had been different, but perhaps hundreds of thousands of European Jews died because this country and others REFUSED to give them sanctuary. The United States, a nation of immigrants, gave in to xenophobia and anti-Semitism, and thus was complicit in those deaths, to my way of thinking.

    This is all I can think about when I read about these disgusting Republican governors trying to keep refugees out of their states – my ex-husband is alive ONLY because some rare chance allowed his parents to find sanctuary from the barbarism of the Nazis. Are we not better than that now? Seriously? I mean, I know there are security issues, sure – – but we screen these people. Are 5 year old children really going to pose a threat? It disgusts me so much, I can barely stand to think about it. Great posts as always JanF

    • JanF
      November 19, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      The Republicans are so desperate to gain an electoral upper hand that they have jettisoned their humanity. In a just world, there would be a price to pay. I hope payment comes due sooner rather than later as all the effort President Obama has put into restoring America’s reputation in the world after the Bush doctrine shredded it is at risk of being lost.

    • bfitzinAR
      November 19, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      No, we are not better than that now. The same ideas that refused asylum to Jews in the 1930s are alive and well today. What progress we’ve made in any kind of human rights has been because of a minority of very determined people like Denise who had more “yes” than the racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic majority had “no”. And every time the latter get frightened there’s a lot of backsliding and a whole lot of work that has to be done again.

    • November 20, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      What a moving post, Geordie. So glad that your ex-husband and at least some of his children escaped.

      The ugliness of some people surpasseth all understanding.

  9. Denise Velez
    November 19, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Well at least there is some good news

    Don’t ‘scapegoat’ Syrian refugees, Catholic bishops and evangelicals say

    (CNN)Two of the country’s largest and most influential religious groups, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals, are urging the United States not to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees after the deadly terrorist attack in Paris last Friday.

    Should be interesting to hear R response to this – since some of the R candidates claim to be evangelical.

    • bfitzinAR
      November 19, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      They’re only evangelical when they can use it as an excuse.

    • JanF
      November 19, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      This would not be the first time that Republican lawmakers ignored the teachings of their spiritual leaders.

      Churches and bibles are handy for photo ops to dupe the dupable. Their instructions come from the NRA and the military industrial complex.

  10. JanF
    November 19, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Secretary Clinton at the Council on Foreign Relations today:

    ” … ‘we cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and our humanitarian obligations. Turning away orphans, applying a religious test, discriminating against Muslims, slamming the door on every Syrian refugee, that is just not who we are. We are better than that,’ Clinton said. ‘We should be doing more to ease this humanitarian crisis, not less.’ ”

  11. JanF
    November 19, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    This afternoon, the House passed the Americans SAFE Act with 47 Democratic votes. Harry Reid said it will not get through cloture in thw Senate. In any event, the president will veto it.

    Another show vote to hang up there on the wall with the 60+ ACA repeals and use in fundraising letters.

  12. November 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    Jan, LOVE your “Updated with pesky facts” subtitle!

    Still smiling at that, but not at what’s being reported.

    • JanF
      November 20, 2015 at 2:21 pm

      Here are some more:

      The process the United States is using to vet the 10,000 Syrian immigrants who will be resettled in the country is also thorough and takes on average 18 to 24 months, making the refugee process an unlikely path for terrorists attempting to sneak into the country. The extensive security process includes screenings by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees then the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, and the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security. The refugees are also individually interviewed by U.S. officials who are trained to verify that they’re actually refugees.

      From what I have seen about the Daesh, patience is not one of their qualities. No one is going to sit in a refugee camp for 2 years on the off chance that they will be able to pass the vetting and become the lucky 1 out of 10 chosen to be resettled … just so that they can blow up some stuff in America.

    • JanF
      November 20, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      And these pesky facts:

      “Can you identify for me a suicidal terrorist that was not a Muslim?” Rep. Steve King (R-IOWA) asked at a Congressional hearing on refugees, which took place on Thursday. The question was met with audible exasperation from those in the room.

      U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez, to whom the question was posed, was left speechless for a moment.

      “I’m not even going to answer that question Congressman,” he said. […]

      Rodriguez didn’t see it fit to get into the history, but there have, of course, been suicidal terrorists who are not Muslim. While it’s true that the majority of organizations that promote suicide attacks are Islamist, their motivations tend to be more political than religious.

      Not Muslim:

      “It is my lot to die young,” Ignaty Grinevitsky wrote before he attacked and killed Tsar Alexander II outside of his palace in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1881.


      Called by the “masters of suicide bombing,” separatist fighters in Sri Lanka known as the Tamil Tigers made frequent use of the tactic after their first attack in 1987.

      Probably Christian:

      There have been several instances of Americans killing civilians in schools, churches, and in other public places before turning their guns onto themselves. Although they’ve wrought havoc and ignited terror, few of these attacks have been classified as terrorism due, in part, to the reasoning that the perpetrators were not part of terrorist organizations.

      I think they are just not looking hard enough for the ties that bind those folks together. It may not be a specific organization every time but there is a pattern: anti-government, often white supremacist … angry white men.

      Regardless, not just Muslims.


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