Guest Columnists

Effort to block refugees is unAmerican

U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington November 19, 2015. Ryan said that the Syrian refugee bill would be the first of many on security and travel issues. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) holds a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington November 19, 2015. Ryan said that the Syrian refugee bill would be the first of many on security and travel issues. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
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In times of crisis, our true American identity should shine.

As an American immigrant from Syria for 30 years, I stand to defend those values. Losing our values or becoming too extreme in our response, like our enemies, loses the battle to the extremists. The horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut and the bombing of a Russian jet should spark heightened security discussions worldwide. It should start cooperation, not isolation.

The Syrian refugees that have captivated so much attention in the wake of these attacks are fleeing precisely the type of senseless slaughter that happened in Paris. To slam the door in their faces — to decide not to help when we know that we can help — would be a betrayal of our deepest values as Americans. ISIS is part of a war that drove 12 million people to become refugees. Eight million are displaced within Syria, and most refugees are in surrounding countries.

French President François Hollande announced on Nov. 18 that France will continue to resettle Syrian refugees like many other European countries. Gov. Terry Branstad joined 30 other governors in officially requesting President Barack Obama to halt resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to specifically block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from resettlement in the U.S. on the basis of their national origin.

I, as a Syrian American, strongly condemn this and I am deeply disappointed in the House passing this bill following the November 19 hearing on refugees. I am shocked that Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack voted to give veto-proof majority to the bill. Blocking refugees is not American and is profoundly negative for America’s image abroad and troubling to our allies in the Middle East.

Lawmakers in both parties have refused Obama’s request for an explicit authorization of force against the Islamic State, even as they vote to curb refugees. This further highlights the vexing politics in the era of terror. Working with the administration, not against the administration, is what the people of Iowa expect from our leaders.

• Newman Abuissa is a Syrian American living in Iowa. Comments: newman@abuissa.net

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