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Resist the war on refugees

Resist the war on refugees

When I was a kid, the history subject that never failed to draw me in was war; in particular, World War II.

There are probably lots of reasons it piqued my interest –– like my dad, I still have a hard time passing by a good history book –– but the battle strategy contrasts in World War I, known as The Great War (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945) are striking.

Being a bit imaginative, it also made me wonder what a World War III would look like. Would I ever witness it? What would it take to recognize what was happening in the world?

It took a French declaration of war on terror for me to finally realize that battle will never again look as it did pre-9/11. Most jarringly, it took our Iowa governor’s cowardice –– following the lead of 25 other state governors –– to learn how easy it is to discredit compassion as a leadership virtue. Because of one connection –– religion –– leaders have now symbolically barred resettling the proposed 10,000 refugees, a fraction of the 4.1 million Syrians who have fled their country, from finding true sanctuary in the United States.

“Symbolic” is the key here, because Gov. Terry Branstad and his fellow governors cannot legally prevent resettlement of ethnic refugees in the U.S. It would be almost laughable if it wasn’t so offensive.

A form letter emailed to me by Nic Pottebaum, policy advisor in the Office of the Governor, claims, “Until the intelligence community can provide a thorough and thoughtful review of refugee background checks and security protocols the federal government should not resettle any refugees in the State of Iowa.”

Processing time for asylum seekers can take anywhere from a year to two years before candidates are granted interviews, the New York Times reported, and that already-intolerable wait for many of them is not likely to get any shorter.

“Nothing happens with their case for two years, and then they get on a (smuggler’s) boat,” said Becca Heller, director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, told the New York Times in October. “It’s hard to advise people against that.”

It’s important to note that those who survive a human trafficking attempt are all trying to reach Europe. As of the start of November, the U.S. had accepted less than 2,000 Syrians.

“(R)efugees are subject to the highest level of security of any category of traveler to the United States,” the Department of Homeland Security told NPR on Tuesday.

A student visa or weekend trip through the Canadian border would be a much faster process for terrorists targeting the U.S., critics have pointed out, rather than spending all that time wading through red tape.

It seems overwhelming, but there are things we as Iowans can do for these lives torn apart by this old kind of war: a war built on the fear of others. You can start by calling Gov. Branstad’s office (515-281-5211) and share your support for resettlement programs in our friendly state.

Or, register your opinion online through constituent services: https://governor.

iowa.gov/constituent-services/ register-an-opinion.

To learn more about volunteering or donating to refugees in Iowa, visit the Iowa International Center’s page on Refugee Assistance Organizations: http:// www.welcometoiowa.org/ ethnic-organizations-in-iowa/ refugee-assistance-organizations.

Most importantly, you can donate to the people of Syria seeking medical treatment and assistance abroad. There are many credible organizations doing this important work, but to start, you can designate a Doctors Without Borders donation towards the Syrian crisis by calling their New York headquarters (212-6796800).

Gov. Terry Branstad doesn’t speak for me, and he doesn’t have to speak for you.

Contact Staff Writer Kate Hayden at [email protected] com

Most jarringly, it took our Iowa governor’s cowardice — following the lead of 25 other state governors — to learn how easy it is to discredit compassion as a leadership virtue.

Kate Hayden

Staff Writer

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