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Friday, November 20, 2015

I can't believe we're even having this debate. More than that, I can't believe I seem to be in the minority on the issue -- and by a lot.

The issue over whether to accept Syrian refugees into the U.S. seems like it should be a foregone conclusion. People need help. We help people. Done. And done. It's practically the definition of America. We're "the good guys."

But not only does it not appear to be that simple, it would seem that those who think like me -- the minority, it would seem -- who believe that America should assist the tired, poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free, do so at the risk of alienating ourselves, being told we don't love America (or our own children), and being called "Muslim sympathizers" as though it's bad to sympathize for the plight of the refugees.

It's for the children, of course. Not the Syrian children, mind you. Screw them. No one cares about Syrian children. But we want to protect our own children ... from Syrian children.

Many comparisons have been made this past week between 2015 and 1939.

In 1939, America turned away Jews seeking asylum in the United States. We didn't believe their concerns to be real. We were still very isolationist at the time and we didn't want to involve ourselves in affairs that weren't our responsibility.

In 2015, we're turning away Syrian refugees. We are fearful that they're Isis agents in disguise, hellbent on destroying America from within. Of course, we're far from isolationists right now but we still seem to want to act that way when it suits our so-called interests.

I'm told that's a false comparison. I'm told that in 1939, we were ignorant. But that today we know what we're doing. That we know what we're talking about. That we have very good reason to refuse entry to 10,000 people who fled their homeland because that land no longer had homes for them to go to.

A week ago, according to various news reports, a man pretending to be a Syrian refugee -- or maybe he really was a Syrian refugee ... or maybe neither of those things -- was one of the perpetrators of the horrible acts of terrorism in Paris.

As all of Facebook changed its profile picture to superimpose a French flag over their selfies, Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo urged Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz to “reverse his stance on accepting Syrian refugees into Erie County." Erie County was slated to be the new home to some 300 refugees next year.

Lorigo may not have been the first to make the "refugee = potential terrorist" statement, but he was the first we heard locally. He was quickly followed by several governors and then the Niagara County Legislature, who voted Tuesday night to demand New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo work to block Syrian refugees from being allowed into New York State. Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to demand additional background checks on any refugee seeking asylum here.

All these things happened in less than a week. From the Paris attacks to Congressional legislation against Syrian refugees -- and a new issue to divide America.

I'd remind people that prior to Sept. 11, 2001, the largest terrorist attack ever committed on American soil was done so by a Niagara County native -- but I probably don't have to do that, right? It's a good thing that the rest of the country and world didn't take it out of all Niagara County natives, though, isn't it? I mean ... could you imagine if no one from Niagara County could go to Disney Land because one disgruntled sicko acted out?

And we know with 100 percent certainly that Timothy McVeigh was from Niagara County. French officials aren't even sure if the "Syrian refugee terrorist," who had a passport which said he was 25-year-old Ahmad Almohammad was Syrian. Or Ahmad Almohammad. Or 25. They do believe the passport to be fake, though.

In other words, we're banning 10,000 people from entering the country because one loon in Paris said he was in their same predicament. Ten thousand people who already have an 18-month to two-year wait to get into America now have more hoops to jump through because one guy claimed he was a Syrian refugee.

Imagine, if you will, that you're a terrorist hellbent on destroying America. Would you want to get into the "18- to 24-month wait" line? Or would you get your fake passport saying you were from another country ... not named Syria? We know Isis to be well-funded. They can get their fake passports from anywhere they want.

So again, we're denying refuge to 10,000 people based on an assumption that terrorists might use "Syrian refugee" on their resume when they can likely write any resume they wish.

Lorigo's statement frustrated me. The proclamations of 30 governors that they didn't want Syrian refugees disappointed me. But Tuesday's vote by the Niagara County Legislature sickened me. Frankly, I thought we were better than that. In fact, I thought the worst amongst us was better than that. The Facebook comments told me otherwise.

Then Thursday -- because I wasn't sick enough -- add to it all the plan by Donald Trump -- the GOP frontrunner for president -- to create a "Muslim database," force followers of the religion to carry special IDs and consider shutting down Mosques. Frankly, I'm wondering what year this is and what country I live in.

This is not the America I read about in history books. And it isn't the America I want my childrens' children to read about in history books. Be better than this. For the children. All of them

Somewhere between complaining about entitlements and declaring our president to be a "Muslim sympathizer," "the land of the free and the home of the brave" decided it isn't really interested in being either.

+Scott Leffler is news editor for East Niagara Post. Contact him via email at

East Niagara Post is the official media sponsor of Hockey Day in Lockport.

1 comment:

  1. While I agree with the sentiment of this article, I feel that the statement about the unwillingness of the members of ISIS to enter an 18-24 month is false. While it may be simpler for ISIS members to get a non-Syrian passport, the identity of Syrian refugee provides them the anonymity of a crowd as there is a flood of refugees headed into the U.S. In addition, our country is a strong practitioner of racial profiling, so even with a fake passport, it had better be excellent as any person trying to gain entrance into the country who seems to be from middle eastern descent will be put under excess scrutiny. I unfortunately don't have an answer as to how we could accept refugees without allowing the entire country to feel safe, but I feel that Americans should trust their government's screening process and not feed into the frenzy started by the attacks in Paris.


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