The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp attends the Class of 1972 50-year reunion in Kyle Field on April 20, 2022.
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Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • May 23, 2024
Texas A&M pitcher Kaiden Wilson (30) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Tennessee at the NCAA Men’s College World Series finals at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, June 22, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Opinion: Reactions to refugees challenge Thanksgiving values

I’m preparing for a bitter Thanksgiving.


This past Thursday, the U.S. House voted to halt the Syrian refugee program. The action comes as a response to multiple factors, most notably the recent attack on Paris and the statements of over 31 state governors (including Texas’) declaring their state will not house Syrian refugees.


Given these governors actually have very little say over whether their state accepts refugees or not (a decision reserved for our federal executive and legislative branches), the move to publicly decry Syrian refugees is a knee-jerk, fear-based reaction that appeals to myths of Islam, terrorism, and the plight of refugees. It’s political posturing on the backs of Syrians who are running from the same terrorists multiple countries have now declared war against.


Many do not know the figures of the Syrian Civil War, which began sometime in 2011 with peaceful protests and has grown to take as many as 220,000 lives and displace 12 million Syrians. Of those 12 million, 4 million have taken refuge in neighboring countries, and more than half are women and children under 17. These are staggering figures, and have countries struggling to provide infrastructure for the influx of asylum-seeking refugees.


What’s worse is ISIS’s continued attacks have instigated nearly global paranoia, and refugees are now often viewed as potential threats to national security. When the Paris attack occurred, the first instinct was to assume the attackers were terrorists disguised as refugees. Belgian and French officials have since dispelled that rumor, stating all of the attackers were European nationals. One carried a Syrian passport, but it has since been deemed fake and likely an attempt to impersonate a refugee. This has pundits in fear, as it illustrates that ISIS may have intentions of instigating further tensions against Syrians, thus encouraging them to join ISIS’s ranks.


Even if ISIS tried to send terrorists through the refugee system, the U.S. has incredibly strict regulations about admitting foreign refugees. The current vetting process can take between 18 to 24 months, and of the 784,000 refugees let into America since 9/11, none have committed any acts of domestic terrorism, and only three have been charged with any terrorism-related crime. The point is: individuals like the Paris attackers don’t want to enter the U.S. through the refugee program. It’s a tight channel that can detect any hint of foul play.


The bottom line is much of the tension arises from Westerner’s general ignorance of Islamic belief. The people who want to ban Syrian refugees do so because they feel insecure about muslims and islamic culture. However a study conducted by Gallup, Inc. in 2006 showed that 93 percent of Muslims do not support extremist views. Yes, this figure is outdated, but it still stands that the vast majority of muslims are non-violent.


But this week isn’t meant to a be a week of mourning, fear and mounting racial tensions. This is Thanksgiving week, where Americans everywhere celebrate the mythologized meeting of Pilgrims and Native Americans and the feast they shared. It’s a day of breaking bread with friends and family, where community — no matter what color or ethnicity — is valued above all else. This is a time to open our arms further and double-down on prospects of love, not fear. This is a time to embrace others not based on their religious affiliation, but on the fact that they are people. This is a time to remember that Americans were once the refugees.


I am unhappy with the way my governor and representatives are treating these people in dire need of assistance, and the feeling will remain with me through the Thanksgiving proceedings. I can only hope that the food will wash away this bad taste in my mouth.

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