We are seeing why state governors and local politicians are not charged with setting national immigration policy. Their views are too narrow and their focus is too short-sighted. National political leaders must think broadly. They must consider America’s long term national security, our strategic international relationships, and the depths of our national soul.
Local political leaders can posture about not allowing Syrian refugees “in my backyard,” but national leaders must think with complexity and with focus on the bigger picture of defeating international terrorism both militarily and ideologically.
After rigorous, stringent screening and vetting, there are several reasons why we must and should receive Syrian refugees.
One, we are obligated, in coalition with other Western nations, to help ease the humanitarian crisis that has landed at Europe’s doorstep. Appropriating Syrian refugees is essential to building a coalition of nations to defeat ISIS and international terrorism.
Two, rejecting innocent refugees on the basis of nationality and religion plays right into the hands and recruiting strategies of the international terrorist organizations. They want to turn the conflict into an apocalyptic religious crusade that pits Islam against the world. Our fight is not against a religion, but against barbarism and terrorism. We want all people of good will and of all faiths to join the fight.
Three, welcoming innocent Syrian refugees keeps us true to our most cherished values and national identity. Our nation welcomes immigrants fleeing oppression and disaster. To give up our values is to give up what we are truly fighting for. We do not have a defined national ethnicity, but we do have common ethics and common values. Our shared sense of justice and grace is what holds our nation together.
We are blessed to have a president and other national leaders who appeal to the “better angels of our nature” in tumultuous times. To give in to fearing “fear itself,” gives our enemies a victory they cannot win on the battlefield. Welcoming innocent Syrian refugees is the right thing to do, and it’s in our national interest.
Our real strengths are in our compassion and in our ability to understand the complexities of defeating international terrorism in the 21st century. We will win the future against our enemies because our light and our salvation does not come from our fears and our prejudices, but from our faith in our values and our ideals.
Rev. Marshall Hatch is chairman of the Leaders Network and senior pastor of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the West Side of Chicago.