By BRANDON GRANAADA —
I was born in Redwood City, California because America opened its doors to my father’s family in 1962.
But my father was born in the Netherlands because my grandfather was not granted refugee status coming from the Netherlands to the U.S. Instead he and my grandmother were forced to go into hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland.
They survived the war; however, many in my family did not. Cousins I could have had were never born because my family was not able to escape the Holocaust via immigration.
It is with my family’s history in mind that I find the House’s decision to drastically tighten the screening process for Syrian refugees immigrating to the United States a defamation of our country’s creed: liberty and justice for all.
With support from both parties, the House passed a bill Thursday 289-137, which halts and overhauls the immigration process for Syrian refugees. This legislation would require an intensive screening process, which includes the approval of the director of the FBI, secretary of homeland security and director of national intelligence.
I stand with President Barack Obama in calling the bill untenable, and ask that he veto such legislation should it come across his desk.
Many have argued the bill is necessary for the safety of American citizens. “This should not be Congress against the president, Republican against Democrat,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said in an interview Thursday. “This should be about ‘What do we need to do to keep our people safe?’”
While I agree safety is of the utmost importance, security tactics should be created using common sense and compassion.
Syrian refugees are not the greatest threat to American security. Already, without such drastic legislation, refugees go through the toughest screening process of all potential immigrants.
The screening process takes up to two years and includes a series of background checks by security organizations such as the FBI and the Defense Department.
If the House is truly concerned about Americans’ safety it should first look at the visa policies of students and tourists. It is the far less stringent policies attached to these groups that allowed the 9/11 attackers to enter the U.S.
It is evident that the House is not interested in our nation’s safety, but instead the scoring of political points before an election cycle.
“Apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America,” sniffed Obama during a visit to Manila. “They’ve been playing on fear in order to try to score political points or to advance their campaigns. And it’s irresponsible. And it’s contrary to who we are. And it needs to stop, because the world is watching.”
Obama is correct in his critique of this policy. America is a nation of immigrants, known for technological advancement stemming from communication and the spread of ideas. We have such great exchanges because of the diversity of our backgrounds, a diversity forged from years of open immigration policies. I am not calling on Congress to loosen our immigration policies; however, to tighten them for a distressed people is morally incomprehensible.
Not only is it incomprehensible, but it’s non-factual.
Many have pointed to the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris as the motivation for this bill’s passage. While I can understand the uneasiness created by an attack on our allies, and the fear that an American city could be the next target, policies aimed at refugees is not the correct approach. Refugees are merely the easiest scapegoats.
The terrorists identified so far are French and Belgian, not Syrian. Furthermore, there is no evidence suggesting refugees carried out the attacks. The only link to Syrian refugees was a passport found at the scene, a passport deemed fake by French authorities.
To be afraid is rational given the severity of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks. But to make a decision out of fear is to make an irrational decision.
It is this same mindset that led to Japanese internment camps and post-9/11 Muslim hate crimes. It allowed Breckenridge Long, a senior State Department official in charge of visas, to deny Jews immigration in 1940, ensuring their deaths in concentration camps.
Passing such legislation is not a decision made for our safety, but instead our piece of mind. To scapegoat Syrian refugees is to place us on the wrong side of history.
As this bill enters the Senate, representatives should ask themselves whether America guarantees liberty and justice for all, or just for some?
(Written by Brandon Granaada, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Nov. 26, 2015)