The combination of the last week of a statewide election and the terrorist attacks in Paris has allowed not only the current governor but Louisiana’s two candidates for governor to demonstrate the opposite of leadership.
At last count, as The Advocate reported, a grand total of 14 Syrian refugees have been admitted to Louisiana, resettled by Catholic Charities. We commend that Christian commitment.
Unfortunately, we can’t be as complimentary to the political class in Louisiana.
One exception is Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans. “Matters of national security are no place for politics,” the mayor said.
It seems he is the only cool head these days.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive order Monday would seek to block resettlement of any Syrian refugees in Louisiana.
One of Jindal’s assertions is that the state does not have adequate information from the U.S. government about the scope of resettlement. Official statements have made it clear that Syrian refugees admitted to this country are screened by the intelligence services. The governor needs to do better than this in fomenting a crisis.
Not to be outdone in the hysteria league, candidates for governor in Saturday’s runoff election also called for at least a temporary halt to the resettlement of refugees.
“While we understand the need to provide a safe haven from those facing persecution, we cannot do it at the expense of the safety of our people here in Louisiana,” Democrat John Bel Edwards said. “This isn’t political. We have an obligation to put aside the partisan rhetoric and work together to keep our people safe.”
Republican David Vitter’s campaign sent numerous emails to supporters about Syrian refugees on Sunday. Vitter sought to profit from the helplessness of others on the Lord’s day: “While it is absolutely important to help those in need, I have serious concerns about the protocols regulating who comes into our country. We need to make sure that those entering the United States are exactly who they say they are — not ISIS terrorists.”
Contrary to their statements, this is all about politics from Edwards and Vitter, fearmongers instead of leaders.
The experience with refugees of the Afghanistan war ought to be instructive. Some of the families brought to this country returned to their homeland eventually but others stayed to work and be educated in the United States.
If this is all about keeping our people safe, the political leaders know that there is no absolute guarantee, although the vast majority of Syrian refugees — like the Afghanistan refugees — will be women and children. Obviously, many adult males would have been killed in the fighting.
The refugees of the past — Christian or Muslim or Jew, European or Asian — either became part of the American people or returned to their homelands later. In every case, there are bound to be some who become extremists. But the notion that frightened women and children are a public safety threat is ridiculous.
Leaders should act to calm fears, not inflame them.