The recent violence that so brutally ended lives in Paris, Beirut and San Bernardino understandably heightened concerns about further terror attacks. But we can and must address those security concerns while upholding our fundamental values and obligations. Refusing to do our part in bringing a small fraction of those fleeing terror in Syria to the United States will not make us safer. It does not reflect who we are as a country. And it sends precisely the wrong message to the rest of the world.
Refugees go through more stringent security background checks than any group of immigrants coming to the U.S. The entire process for resettlement can take two years or more. We know firsthand about this exhausting yet critical system of checks and how the U.S. does not compromise on security, even for a single mother with four kids or an orphaned child.
Before Paris, we saw an outpouring of support for Syrians from communities across the United States, with church groups and others being overwhelmed by parishioners’ requests to host Syrian refugees or help humanitarian aid workers prepare refugees for winter. Those were and still are the right instincts. Showing generosity, inclusiveness and compassion in the face of terror and violence reflects the best of who we are as a nation.
[Excerpts of Chicago Sun-Times Opinion piece by Liz Dre who served in the Obama administration from 2009-2014, and Anne Sweeney who has worked to resettle refugees with UNHCR and the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program.]