America is a land of immigrants. Since its inception, the United States of America has been a place where persecuted people have come and been able to live freely. Our willingness to open our country’s doors to refugees of the world has been met with its fair share of dissension; however, America is great because of its great diversity. To be great, we must strive to include individuals from all walks of life. In the wake of the Syrian civil war and the resulting Syrian refugee crisis, many elected officials have resorted to harmful rhetoric that is disparaging and disappointing. For instance, House Speaker Paul Ryan recently suggested that we should freeze the acceptance of Syrian refugees because “we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion.” This way of thinking is misguided and misinformed.
The fear that Ryan and countless other Americans have of terroristic violence is the same fear that drives these refugees to our doorstep. Families have been torn apart and forced out of their homes because of violence in their backyard. As Americans, we should greet suffering refugees with open arms and understanding hearts, not with prejudice and hatred.
According to reports, roughly 10 percent of the annual 70,000 refugees from all nations that the United States accepts settle in Texas. To date, 184 Syrian refugees have already been settled in Texas, many in the Dallas area. This leads to the question, why is it that one of the leading states in refugee resettlement be one of the most unforgiving when it comes to immigration?
Our state has been made greater by those who have relocated, resettled and contributed so much to our communities and our state.
The Syrian refugee crisis highlights a problem that America has seen time and time again – fear of the lesser known. Refugees fleeing Nazi persecution prior to and during World War II were met with fear before the Holocaust, and that is a mistake our nation now must live with. France, a country that recently suffered extreme loss at the hands of terrorists, plans to accept 30,000 Syrian refugees. That is a gesture that truly embodies compassion. It is time we overcome our fear and do the same.
We must not forget that our country is one built by and made great because immigrants who have come from all parts of the world in search of a better life. The Texas I know and represent is a warm and friendly place, where a stranger always has a seat at the table – where everything is bigger, including and especially our hearts. Exclusivity is not the culture of Texas, and it is not the culture of this great nation.
U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.