U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich said that those who assume the refugees fleeing from Syria are a threat “is a rejection of American values and represents giving in to our worst ethnic and religious prejudices.”
Heinrich made the remarks in a statement sent to media on Tuesday morning in which he also acknowledged the need for “the highest levels of vetting and scrutiny” for potential refugees from the Middle Eastern country.
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A majority of governors, including New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, have expressed concern about Syrian refugees and said they will not accept any refugees fleeing the war-torn country.
Of course, governors have very little say in refusing refugees. President Barack Obama’s administration has said they would accept 10,000 of the more than four million refugees from Syria.
“Every Syrian refugee must be subject to the highest levels of vetting and scrutiny, including repeated biometric screenings, before entering the United States of America. Syria is a war zone and we have a duty to ensure our own homeland security,” Heinrich said. “However, the implicit assumption that Syrian refugees–many of whom have suffered terribly at the hands of ISIS–are a threat because of their country of origin is a rejection of American values and represents giving in to our worst ethnic and religious prejudices.”
Currently, the process for vetting and approving refugees from Syria takes anywhere from 18-24 months; this is longer than the usual 12-18 months for refugees from other countries.
McClatchy reported, “Since June 2014, the U.N. has referred some 500 to 1,000 Syrians for resettlement in the United States each month, with a focus on the most vulnerable, such as female-headed households and victims of torture.”
Heinrich noted that his father and grandparents left Nazi-controlled Germany ahead of World War II.
“Had this brand of twisted anti-immigrant logic been applied to them, I can only wonder how very different my life would be today,” Heinrich said.
This could be seen as a direct rebuke of his colleague in the Senate, and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. The Texas Republican announced on Monday that he would introduce legislation that would bar Muslims from Syria from entering the United States. House Republicans are exploring legislation to react to refugees from Syria.
Obama, while at the G-20 meeting in Turkey, also not-so-subtly spoke about the efforts to keep Syrian Muslims out of the country when he said, “We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
“And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful,” he said, his voice rising. “That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
The backlash against Syrian refugees hit a fever pitch following the Paris terror attacks that killed over 100 and wounded hundreds more. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.