On June 4, 1939, a German ocean liner filled with 908 Jewish refugees looking for asylum was turned away by the U.S. Some were finally accepted by European countries, but as a result of our lack of empathy, 254 of those passengers ended up dying in the Holocaust.
Now, Republicans like Chris Christie are calling for the U.S., the land of the free and the home of the brave, to stop accepting new Syrian refugees into our country in a shameful attempt to pander to angry right-wingers fearful of an ISIS attack.
Have we learned nothing?
In this case, Christie is the worst type of cynical fear-peddler, playing on the Islamophobia rampant among a large number of Republican supporters in a cheap ploy to garner votes. It’s less “Telling it like it is” and more “Fear for your lives!”
You see, Christie wants to paint President Obama as lacking leadership on ISIS, but in this case it’s Christie who is the scared reactionary. Just a few months ago, after the heart-wrenching images of 3-year-old refugee Aylan Kurdi lying dead on the beach gripped the world, compassionate Christie was singing a different tune entirely.
“I’d sit down with our allies and figure out how we can help, because America is a compassionate country,” Christie said. “We saw the image of that 4-year-old little boy drowned in Syria, and we can’t have those kinds of things. I can’t come up with an exact number. You’d have to sit with our allies and work together.”
Compare that to the scared fear-mongering we heard on Monday, when Christie told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt he wouldn’t even be willing to accept orphans under the age of five.
“The fact is, that we need appropriate vetting and I don’t think orphans under five should be admitted into the United States at this point. They have no family here. How are we going to care for these folks?” a fearful Christie said. “We need to put the safety and security of the American people first.”
Ah, Christie proudly standing up to protect us from orphaned Syrian toddlers. Thanks for nothing, Obama.
Keep in mind that New Jersey has safely accepted about 75 Syrian refugees since the start of the year.
And the Refugee Act of 1980 seems to give the federal government power over the states when it comes to the admission of refugees from a humanitarian crisis, which Syria certain qualifies as. Though I guess you can’t expect a gaggle of right-wing governors who brag about hating government to actually know how it works.
Beyond the moral duty we as Americans have to accept Syrian refugees, it might be news to Christie and others that turning our backs on them actually helps ISIS.
You see, these terrorists hate the Syrian refugees because they expose the largest lie ISIS is trying to portray – that their self-identified Caliphate is an Islamic paradise. And every refugee that we turn away or mistreat helps ISIS recruit more fighters, as we play right into the narrative that western countries hate Muslims.
Plus, fear-peddlers like Christie might want to get their facts straight on the Paris attacks. The Syrian passport that was found on the body of one attacker, which seemed to bolster the claim that ISIS is hiding terrorists among refugees, was a fake. In fact, all the terrorists and suspects who have been identified so far have been either French or Belgian citizens.
So not only is Christie’s call to ban Syrian refugees morally repugnant, it’s factually wrong, since all of the terrorists in the Paris attacks were foreign nationals. Plus, to gain access to the U.S., refugees have to pass rigorous screening by both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Department of Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, Christie and Republicans, who are the first to complain about every perceived slight towards Christians, defy what our country stands for by trying to bar safe haven to those that are truly being persecuted.
Quite simply, Christie should be ashamed.
Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe