One of the unfortunate outcomes of the Paris attacks has been that over half of the United States’ governors have vowed to keep refugees out of their states. Our own governor, Phil Bryant, said he would do “anything humanly possible” to resist refugees’ entrance into Mississippi. At first glance, this train of thought may seem reasonable, specifically when one of the Paris attackers posed as a refugee to enter Greece. From there, he moved around Europe before making his way to France. If you’ve ever been to Europe you know it’s nothing to hop on a train and go from one country to the next.
However, I beg you to dig a little deeper, and you will find that one man was successful because of intelligence failure, an isolated incident among refugees seeking protection and a better life.
I could discuss intelligence and foreign policy issues, but this letter isn’t about that. This letter is about the governors that vowed not to let any refugees into their states, the governors whom claim to be Christians.
As their brother in Christ, I am publicly asking these leaders to rethink their decision, made in haste. I am asking them to resist the temptation to gain political points off this tragic events by capitalizing off fear and mass hysteria. I urge these governors and those that agree with them to rethink their stance, especially if they are professing Christianity.
To put hosting refugees in context, only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011, according to CNN. Those 1,500 went through an intensive vetting process that takes an average of between 16 and 18 months. President Obama said that only 10,000 Syrian refugees will come to the United States next year. That’s a small number compared to the total number of Syrian refugees is upward of 4 million.
When these governors issued their statements, they did not bother to release any of this research in their assessment of the situation. To these governors, I use the saying, albeit cliché’: “What would Jesus do?”
The Bible teaches us that even while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Even when we hated Him, spit upon Him, constantly rejected Him, and broke His law, He still died for us. The Bible says we should have a love like that for one another. The Bible teaches that we should pick up our cross daily and follow Him.
Please don’t get it confused. The Cross is not a symbol of comfort, but the complete opposite— a symbol of death. It’s where Christ laid down His life for us. Hebrews 12:2-3 says “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
This is the same level of sacrifice that we are called to make daily. Matthew 25 illustrates the magnitude of this sacrifice: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
Do not read this and hear me suggesting an open border policy. I am certainly not, and I feel it’s safe to say no one is saying that or advocating for irresponsible national security. The antithesis of a completely open policy, not using any sort of discernment on allowing entry, is a completely closed border, doing anything “humanly possible to stop them for coming here,” according to our governor. Instead, I am advocating that we help as many as possible using a comprehensive vetting system to try to eliminate any threats on our country. I am even advocating for the level of scrutiny in our system to increase.
To these governors claiming Christianity: Christ gave up his life so that you may know life and be saved, and have true joy and comfort that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Why can’t you do “anything humanly possible” to help these people? Why can’t you come together and work with the national government to formulate plans to increase the certainty of the vetting system? Most importantly, why can’t you give up some of your political points and power so that 10,000 people can have a safe place to sleep at night? Something we take for granted!
I can empathize with these refugees because I have been a refugee. I have known just a small fraction of what these people are going through. I was a refugee within my own country after Hurricane Katrina. My beloved mother wading through Katrina water to get my siblings and me food is something I will never forget. I will never forget the dry tears I cried because of the hopelessness I felt. I call them dry tears because I had been crying so much that there was no more water to come out. However, the feeling was still there. We were able to leave New Orleans with nothing but the clothes on our backs and a few articles of clothes we managed to save. With nowhere to go, homeless, and out of food, we eventually made it to a shelter in Beaumont, Texas. After being denied shelter and food, we prepared to sleep in the car stacked on top of one another, but before we turned in someone offered us beds to sleep on, food to eat, and hot water to take a shower.
What I know and have been through first hand is only a small fraction of what these people are going through. I was also blessed enough by God to already be in the United States, blessed that I wasn’t being terrorized, and blessed that someone decided to say “you can come here.”
Ike Hill is a senior accountancy student from New Orleans.