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Don’t send us your huddled masses yearning to be free?

By on December 5, 2015
Dimitri C. Michalakis

Dimitri C. Michalakis

In the paranoia since the Paris attacks the knee-jerk reaction of the many unfortunate Republican candidates running for president who it seems have hijacked the party (do you people really want a job this intractable—and do we really want you?) is that we should close our borders to Syrian refugees in particular until all the responsible officials who have anything to do with refugees guarantee us—absolutely—without a shadow of a doubt—and certify that in writing–that no refugee we allow into this country will ever do us any harm now and forever and in the future beyond that.

But, wait, there’s more. In The Daily Beast Olivia Nuzzi wrote:

“Ben Carson said that allowing any refugees into the United States at all ‘under these circumstances is a suspension of intellect’; Donald Trump said, ‘We cannot let them into this country, period’; Marco Rubio switched his position from being ‘open’ to the idea of taking refugees to saying, ‘It’s not that we don’t want to. It’s that we can’t.’ Rand Paul cautioned the U.S. to be ‘very careful’ to not admit refugees ‘that might attack us’ and, on Monday, announced to reporters that he was preparing a bill to halt refugees from countries with jihadist activity; Chris Christie said that not even ‘3-year-old orphan’ refugees should be allowed to enter the country. But Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush devised a compromise: The U.S. could admit Syrian refugees so long as the refugees are Christians.”

As for Trump—let’s not go there.

Okay, so it’s campaign rhetoric and these presidential hopefuls are pandering for votes. But America goes through these periodic groundswells of xenophobia and fear about the mess in the rest of the world and how we don’t want to get involved (which is why FDR had such a hard time getting the US into the war and why McCarthy—and now Trump—are getting away with their shenanigans for so long). America, of course, was founded by immigrants, but to protect ourselves once we come here in times of crisis we want to hoist up the ramp so nobody can cross the moat of the Atlantic and Pacific and do us any harm. We got to Fortress America and we don’t want anybody else to disturb us.

Which means in these times of crisis we tend to deny that privilege to anybody who might want to find security in America just as we once did. In other words, in times of panic and fear we deny ourselves and the principles on which America was founded.

The refugee issue will not die down as long as refugees exist and wars exist to displace them and the terrorists make the displaced people of the world their conduits across the borders. But once the campaign rhetoric fades and common sense rears its ugly head once again let’s hope we remember that what created this country were refugees and what continues to replenish it is the tide of new refugees who go through their endless screenings (perhaps the most exhaustive in the world despite what the politicians say) and who revitalize this country through their work ethic and their immigrant wonder at the promise of America that we once had.

Have a wonderful holiday.

About Dimitri C. Michalakis

Dimitri C. Michalakis is Editor in Chief on NEO Magazine.