Shame On Us: Why America Should Never Forget Our Refugee History

The following is the opinion of the writer of this piece and not necessarily of Rise News.

By Tony R. Myhre

In recent weeks, I’ve seen a few of these analysis pieces speaking towards the economic and security benefits of allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.

Growing up, the community where we lived was largely Section 8 housing.

This resulted in a host of refugees from Southeast Asia (Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam) coming to live in my complex.

Those were all countries where the United States had engaged in ‘suppressing communism’. I don’t recall being indoctrinated by one of these refugees, nor do I recall one of them engaging in militant or subversive activity against the interests of the United States.

Yes, they were different. They dug holes in the ground to relieve themselves, despite have toilets in their apartments. They hung their sink washed laundry from the eaves of their decks and porches, rather than using the washer and dryer in the laundry room. The food they ate was different, and no one could understand a word they were saying. But it worked. Eventually, things ‘normalized’.

“I’m not a terrorist sympathizer – anyone who knows me, knows that. But I am a human being – and neither my conscience nor my God will allow me to turn away the least of these simply because they could be dangerous.”

I’m related to refugees. I’ve known members of both families for over 20 years. Neither are terrorists. Neither are engaged in conduct that is subversive to the interests of the United States. The children of those refugees are both productive members of American society, in fact one is Iranian, and a United States Marine that was deployed and fought against militants and terrorists.

The other is Vietnamese and Chinese and works in a capitalist industry serving the risk management interests of businesses and citizens alike. 

In fact, aren’t most of us refugees? Weren’t the founding fathers refugees? This country is made up of generations of people who fled their home countries coming to this shining beacon of hope in order to escape religious persecution, the hopelessness of famine, or war and tribulation. You know, that whole American dream thing?

There are security implications, as is obvious based upon what we’re seeing in Europe. It is inarguable that people who entered Europe through the influx of refugees have ‘slipped through the cracks’ in the security mechanisms and engaged, or are planning to engage in jihad against innocents.

The threat of that is unfolding and intelligence gathering and the security apparatus are tightening in on many of those threats. Many are likely still in waiting. As is always the case, there are bad apples in every basket. Are the vast majority of these migrants terrorists? I doubt it. Is there an inherent need for effective screening? Sure.

The overall tone of the rhetoric and vitriol I keep hearing from folks as it relates to ‘refugees’ is, in my estimation, largely unwarranted and based on the fear mongering that our media is inciting among us.

I’m not a terrorist sympathizer – anyone who knows me, knows that. But I am a human being – and neither my conscience nor my God will allow me to turn away the least of these simply because they could be dangerous. Loving and accepting people tends to generate a much different response than despising them because they’re different.

Cover Photo Credit: Tom Thai/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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