This is a tough one. On one side, we have those who believe ISIS is using the Syrian refugees as camouflage for smuggling operatives into the United States. On the other side we have those who dismiss that idea, citing similar fears in American history; think Nazi infiltrators blending with Jewish refugees and the rounding up of Japanese Americans into concentration camps to mitigate the threat that they supposedly presented – both of these during WW II and neither, as far as I know, actually posing a threat in hindsight. They also cite a lack of hard evidence that ISIS does, in fact, have operatives hiding amongst the Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the United States.
Sadly, in the middle, we have thousands of people who have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people pose no threat to anyone, yet because of a perceived threat to local and national security, many Americans including several candidates for president and 31 state governors oppose their entry into our country.
My Facebook feed is rife with strong positions on both sides of the issue. I get it. People are scared, and rightfully so given the tragic recent attacks on innocent people promulgated by ISIS. But are we too scared? Are we, in our fear, playing right into ISIS’ hands?
Personally, I don’t believe that ISIS needs the refugees to help them smuggle operatives into our country. They are already here and in touch with ISIS leadership. Don’t believe me?
Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson told CNN on February 8, 2015 that there are individuals living in the United States today who have contact with ISIS and other terrorist groups who have “a desire to conduct an attack” on U.S. soil.” http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/02/08/homeland-security-chief-terrorist-sleeper-cells-us-poised-attack
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, not normally a pundit I cite, reported on May 7, 2015 that “ISIS says it has sleeper cells in 15 states, ready to strike.” http://www.msnbc.com/hardball/watch/is-isis-setting-up-cells-in-america–441764419625
CNN quoted Michael Steinburg, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division on February 3, 2015, “there are individuals that have been in communication with groups like ISIL who have a desire to conduct an attack.” He further said that those people are living in the U.S. right now, but the term “sleeper cells” is too simplistic, because the threat is much more complicated and diffuse. http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/03/politics/fbi-isis-counterterrorism-michael-steinbach/
Google “United States Sleeper Cell” for a plethora of additional examples.
So what’s my point? Simply this. No one can dispute the fact that thousands of innocent people have been displaced from their homeland through no fault of their own. These people need help. They need compassion. And I believe we Americans ought to offer it to them. I do not believe, based on what I have read and heard thus far, that accepting some of the refugees into our country presents a plausible threat to the point that it is reasonable to turn them away. ISIS does not need them to carry out its mission. In fact, I would venture to say that ISIS probably welcomes the distraction that this argument offers, given the news reports cited above.
As a Christian I am called to love my neighbor. When asked to define who is our neighbor, Jesus told a parable in which a Samaritan, loathed and despised by the Jews of that time, was the neighbor to the man who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead alongside the road. (See Luke 10:25-37).
I choose to honor Jesus by loving those who are in need, and I trust that God will protect us as we do so. For I know that the war is already won through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let us dispense with the fear. Let us look upon these people with the same level of compassion we would want if we were in their position. Let us be Jesus to those who need to see Him through us.
While we’re at it, let’s dispense with the personal verbal attacks on those with whom we disagree. I see both sides of this dilemma; I have chosen the side on which I stand. You are free to choose yours, too. Let’s not attack each other just because we happen to disagree. Never forget that we Americans are all in this together.
Soli Deo Gloria!