It’s Been a Good Week for Syrian Refugee Inclusion

Having just written a Facebook comment, President Obama ponders leaving the first presidential "Like." [Official White House photo by Pete Souza]

Having just written a Facebook comment, President Obama ponders leaving the first presidential “Like.” [Official White House photo by Pete Souza]

Yesterday, our founder Nick Hanauer published an editorial in the Seattle Times advocating for the inclusion of Muslim immigrants in general, and Syrian refugees in particular. Turns out, yesterday was a very good day for the cause of accepting Syrian refugees in America. President Obama left a comment on a Humans of New York Facebook post* profiling an unnamed Syrian refugee, currently living in Turkey, who is about to relocate to Michigan. Here’s what the Commenter-in-Chief said:

As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to imagine the loss you’ve endured. You and your family are an inspiration. I know that the great people of Michigan will embrace you with the compassion and support you deserve. Yes, you can still make a difference in the world, and we’re proud that you’ll pursue your dreams here. Welcome to your new home. You’re part of what makes America great.

From all appearances, Obama is right: the man is an inventor, and one of his inventions is “being used right now on the Istanbul metro to generate electricity from the movement of the train.” He also says he has sketches of “a plane that can fly for 48 hours without fuel.” Of his new home, the man says “I just hope that it’s safe and that it’s a place where they respect science. I just want to get back to work.”

Today is another great day for Syrian refugees in America. Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress writes:

Last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) filed a lawsuit seeking to halt “any and all activities of the [United States] regarding placement of Syrian refugees in Texas,” at least until the Obama administration complies with a list of demands made by the state. Among other things, they sought a temporary order suspending Syrian refugee resettlement until Judge David Godbey, a George W. Bush appointee, had more time to consider the case. On Wednesday, Godbey ruled on this request for temporary relief. It did not go so well for Paxton.

In other words, Texas doesn’t get to halt the inclusion of Syrian refugees. As Hanauer argued, this is a good thing for America on many different levels: policy, moral, and economic. We need as many different perspectives and experiences as possible in America, for all those reasons. It’s the key to our strength as a people and our growth as an economic power. It is, as Obama says, what makes us a great nation.

Of course, this isn’t a done deal; yesterday, no less a sleazeball opportunist than Senator Ted Cruz unveiled a plan to ban Syrian refugees from the US. But at the moment, the pro-refugee side has the inertia, and that’s very good news in a month that’s seemingly filled from top to bottom with very bad news.

* This is one of those sentences that would have made absolutely no sense 12 years ago. I just like to recognize those moments as they happen.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.