Turning away desperate people fleeing their war-torn home looking for help in order to keep our country safe is just baseless fear-mongering.
I must admit, this was a difficult cartoon to draw. Not because I was conflicted about my opinions on Gov. Jack Markell’s decision to welcome Syrian refugees into Delaware – I happen to agree 100 percent with his position.
No, the conflict came in deciding what cartoon to draw. I had two choices – a cartoon highlighting Markell’s defiance of calls to turn away refugees, or something slamming Congressman John Carney’s disappointing stand with the fear-mongers in defying basic decency.
I went with Markell, because in 21st century America, the richest and most generous county in the world, Markell has made Delaware an outlier in basic human decency, a sad fact I wanted to spotlight.
31 governors now say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states (even though legally the Constitution gives the authority to the federal government), compared to just 20 who have reaffirmed their commitment to host refugees.
The idea that we have to turn away desperate people fleeing their war-torn home looking for help in order to keep our country safe is just baseless fear-mongering, led mostly by cynical politicians seeing a political wedge issue leading into an election year.
Keep in mind it takes refugees about two years to work through a rigorous screening process involving both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Department of Homeland Security – hardly an ideal way for ISIS to get terrorists into the country. It’s much more likely they’ll be able to use the anti-refugee bias to radicalize American-born terrorists, like they’ve done in other countries.
Plus, ISIS hates it when Western countries accept refugees because it exposes their self-identified Islamic paradise as a lie. So in a sense, those governors and politicians who want to turn away desperate families (and in Gov. Chris Christie’s case, even 5-year-old orphans) are actually helping make ISIS stronger.
As expected, Markell’s humane stand to help Syrian refugees has received its fair share of criticism.
“Hardball” host Chris Matthews seemed to imply Markell would be responsible if a refugee ended up becoming a terrorist. State GOP chair Charlie Copeland opposed Markell by spotlighting the Paris attacks, despite the fact all known terrorists and suspects were national born and not refugees.
And Alan Levin, the former state economic development director under Markell, blasted his former boss on Facebook, saying he “could not disagree more” with allowing refugees in Syria.
Don’t worry, Levin isn’t running for governor (“That ain’t happening. No way, no how,” he told me Thursday night). This particular issue is something he told me he feels very strongly about, and says he happened to be browsing on Facebook when Markell’s comments just hit him at the right time. “Do I regret saying it? No,” Levin said. “I did it because it needed to be said.”
Levin’s heart may be in the right place, but I think he and all these other critics are dead wrong. At least Levin had the guts to admit not allowing refugees into the country was “selfish.”
Which brings me to gutless Congressman John Carney, whose pandering on the issue of accepting refugees may be the most head-scratching reaction to the crisis, considering he has no real opposition in his run to become Delaware’s next governor.
In a profile in courage that defies logic, the Democrat boldly announced his 2 percent plan, which would basically suspend the intake of military-aged single men fleeing Syria. According to Carney, this “doesn’t betray our values,” which is easy to say when you’re only value is to hold elected office.
Then, Carney became one of 47 Democrats who joined fear-exploiting Republicans in voting to approve a bill that would effectively stop America from taking in any Syrian refugees for years.
Carney, when confronted by Delawareans fearful about the threat of terrorism, could have chosen to follow the path of Markell and Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper in calming their fears by educating them on the facts. Instead, he chose the path of least resistance, to pander along voting lines and replace human decency with poll numbers and fear-mongering.
I hope Carney is there when we have to turn the first ship back, sentencing battered families and crying children to a death sentence back home, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died during the country’s four-and-a-half year civil war.
Most damning for the gutless Carney is while he and the Republicans he voted with would turn refugees away, French president Francois Hollande has announced that despite the Paris attack, his country will welcome 30,000 more refugees over the next two years.
That’s a true profile in courage, and I hope Carney has the emotional capacity to feel shame for his stand on the refugee crisis. I guess it depends on how that polls.
Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe.