Washington’s governor is opening up about why his state will continue to accept Syrian refugees who are fleeing civil war and terrorism — even as other states shut their doors in the wake of deadly attacks in Paris over the weekend.
In an interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep on Wednesday, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee said he believes that defeating the terrorist group ISIS will take not just military force, but moral force — something he said the extremist groups lacks. So far, approximately 220,000 people have been killed in Syria, and half of the country’s population has been displaced.
“We’ve got to beat these guys in hearts, as well as U.S. Air Force,” he said. “We also have to win the moral battle. And that’s a battle of hope, and a vision for the future where we can live together, and I think this is part of that.”
Inslee said he was sensitive to “very legitimate and real” fears that ISIS militants could pose as refugees in order to sneak into America and commit more crimes. But, he said, “Leadership calls for people to recognize it’s real [and] act responsibly — in this case that means insisting on a robust, multi-layered screening process before they’re allowed in this country.”
“I think that our nation is tested from time to time, and I think this is one of those times to really dig deep and see what kind of character our nation and my state has,” he added. “I’ve always believed my state and the country has always been a place of refuge from those who are persecuted. Right on the Statue of Liberty, they talk about the wretched refuge of your teeming shore, and I don’t know where we’ve had more people who fit this classification of victim.”
Since the attacks in Paris, 29 governors — all but one Republican — have said they will refuse to accept any Syrian refugees into their states. At the same time, however, 18 governors — all but two Democrats — have said they support accepting Syrian refugees. It’s unclear whether any of these proclamations matter, however, as many argue that states don’t have the authority to dictate federal immigration policy.
CREDIT: Graphic by Dylan Petrohilos
To be sure, President Obama and his advisers have indicated that the U.S. will not halt its plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country. Over the weekend, Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said that America has “expansive screening procedures” for accepting refugees who are fleeing from ISIS-related violence, and noted that refugees are “people who’ve suffered the horrors of war, women and children, orphans — we can’t just shut our doors to those people.”
French President Francois Hollande apparently agrees. On Wednesday, he said the recent Paris attacks would not prevent France from accepting 30,000 refugees from Syria.