Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds did the right thing last month when she agreed to continue accepting refugees for resettlement in the state.
Maybe you heard about it, but the governor’s office didn’t exactly make a big deal out of it. On Dec. 10, Reynolds sent a two-sentence letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stating she would “consent to initial refugee settlement in Iowa per the terms of the executive order.”
Not exactly stirring prose. Efficient, though.
The executive order she referenced was issued by President Donald Trump earlier this year directing states and counties to formally authorize refugee resettlement. It’s part of Trump’s ongoing effort to throw up new barriers to refugees entering the U.S., including a cap on new arrivals at 18,000 in 2020. That’s the lowest number since the current program began in 1980.
In Barack Obama’s last year as president, the U.S. took in 110,000 refugees. And the world hasn’t exactly become less dangerous and violent in the past four years. All around the world people are fleeing war, famine, instability and ethnic persecution. The United States once was a beacon of light for those huddled masses.
But not under Trump. Now refugees are a dire threat, a “Trojan horse,” according to the leader of the so-called free world, filled with terrorists, jihadists and gang members. Douse the light and bar the door. Most of all, be afraid.
So against that backdrop, our Republican governor’s decision is a heartening development. Several GOP governors have struggled with this call amid Trumpian immigration hysteria. Good for Reynolds.
But then, nine days later, Reynolds signed onto a letter with the GOP governors of Nebraska and South Dakota enthusiastically praising Trump’s refugee policies. They simply had to make sure the president and his base knew they hadn’t gone all soft in the face of the Trojan horse.
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They blamed Obama, of course, for refusing calls to tighten an already stringent set of background check requirements that took refugees years to navigate.
“Thanks to your leadership, Americans can be confident once again in the screening process for refugees entering the United States,” the governors wrote. Never mind that it was fear-mongering that shook confidence in the process.
So if you were hoping for a Gov. Robert Ray moment from Reynolds, it didn’t happen. Ray, a Republican, took a brave, public stand on welcoming Tai-Dam refugees to Iowa during the 1970s. We were an example of compassion for the nation.
Reynolds will accept refugees, but only while also praising a president determined to leave tens of thousands of people in peril to score the worst kind of political points.
For a Ray moment, you’ll have to look to Utah, where Republican Gov. Gary Herbert responded to Trump’s order by asking the president to let in more refugees.
“We know the need has not decreased and are eager to see the number of admittances rise again,” Herbert wrote in October, pointing to early Mormons who fled persecution and founded the state. His state has historically resettled 1,000 refugees annually.
“This marvelous compassion is simply embedded into our state’s culture,” Herbert wrote
Iowans who remember Ray’s stand would like to believe compassion is embedded here. But it takes leaders with courage.
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