The Refugee Question

Listen, and I promise to make this quick. I do not intend to exaggerate the arguments I disagree with or cast aspersions upon those who make them. I simply wish to understand what, exactly, our intentions are in keeping Syrian refugees off American shores.

Safety, some say. We are concerned about ISIS infiltrating Syrian numbers to perform attacks upon American soil. Fair enough. But exactly how far are we willing to travel on this road? Are we simply going to stop at Syrian refugees? If we are as concerned and distrusting of the Muslim world as all that, hadn’t we better reopen Manzanar for new occupants?

I’m not trying to be snarky or offensive or dramatic. I’m genuinely asking whether we are prepared as a nation to round up our Muslim friends and neighbors on suspicion that any of one of them could have been or may someday become radicalized? Are we going to do what we did during World War II again? What we did to Japanese immigrants? Exactly how far are we willing to go in the name of public safety? Exactly what measures are we keeping on the table?

These questions must be pondered by every American, whether public official or ordinary citizen, as nothing less than the character of our country is at stake here.

Should we ID and track all Muslims in America, whether they be here on visas, work permits? As legal residents, aliens, or naturalized citizens? What about natural-born citizens?

Are third or fourth  generation Muslim Americans to be trusted? How long does a new neighbor have to live on our block before we accept them as our neighbor? 

What about non-Muslims who befriend Muslims or convert to Islam? Must we track them as well? Should Muslim citizens face restrictions until loyalty is proven?

I am not trying to make a straw man argument or reductio ad absurdum, although I may do so unintentionally. These are not measures I am pulling from thin air. These are the types of measures used by past governments worldwide which trust neither the citizen nor the foreigner. These are the sorts of measures being suggested by at least one prominent political candidate. Who else is contemplating these measures? Why? Do we agree? Why or why not?

Where are we going, as a nation, as a people? Who are we becoming?

These are not hypothetical or rhetorical questions. These are not mere exercises in rhetoric or debate, confined to the ivory towers of academia. Nor are these mere lightning rods for controversy, fodder for our daily spats on social media. Fuel for awkward family get-togethers and after dinner drinks with friends. These are not topics to respond to in the heat of the moment, when our blood is boiling, only to be forgotten the moment another celebrity shows his/her abs.

How we answer these questions over the next few weeks will determine the shape of our nation for the foreseeable future.

God willing, we will choose our next action wisely.

Please, America. Take your time on this one.