Faith leaders, senators say U.S. must not 'pause' refugee resettlement

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Ryder, Reuters


WASHINGTON (CNS) — A coalition
of religious leaders joined three U.S. senators on Capitol Hill Dec. 8 to say
“enough is enough” to those who want to bar Muslim refugees from
Syria and other Middle East trouble spots from the U.S. after terrorist attacks
in Paris and Southern California.

In the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, shooters
identified as jihadists killed at least 129 people. In San Bernardino,
California, a married couple, who authorities say were radicalized Muslims,
killed 14 people and injured 21 others Dec. 2 at a county social services

“There is absolutely no
reason to stop or pause the resettlement of Syrian refugees. The fear around
this is wrong and as people of faith, we must demand more from our public
officials,” said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of

The House has passed legislation
that would pause the Obama administration’s plan to take in at least 10,000
Syrian refugees over the next year. A similar bill will be taken up by the
Senate. Lawmakers backing the measures claim there are too many holes in the
process to properly vet refugees to be resettled in the U.S.

But Cardinal McCarrick in his
remarks on the Hill said the United States “has the most secure refugee
resettlement process in the world. Refugees are the most scrutinized and
screened individuals to enter the United States.”

“Many families find themselves
between the violence behind them and the refusal of resettlement in some place
with peace and safety, which is all that they really want,” said Bishop Sally
Dyck of the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church.
“I trust that all of our elected leaders will not prevent these Syrian
families from being able to resettle in our country.”

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy,
D-Vermont, said that “intolerance has no place in our country,”
adding that accepting refugees is part of U.S. history and culture and a part
“of who were are.”

“It can be done safely with
the proper screening procedures,” he continued. “In the words of Pope
Francis, our message to those seeking refugee should be ‘one of hope and
healing, of peace and justice.’

“To respond by closing our
doors to those fleeing our enemy is to give in to that enemy. It is in these difficult moments that our
actions most directly reflect who we are as a nation. It is time for senators
to lead by following our consciences. It is time to do what is right and

He was joined by U.S. Sens. Dick
Durbin, D-Illinois, and Timothy Kaine, D-Virginia.

The senators and the religious
leaders also roundly criticized an anti-Muslim backlash that has followed the
latest terrorist attacks.

After the rampage in San
Bernardino, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump Dec. 7 called for
all Muslims to be barred temporarily from entering the U.S. until the
government figures out what is behind such attacks.

His remarks were roundly
condemned by his fellow Republican candidates, the Democratic presidential
candidates and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, among others.

Reacting to such “horrific
terrorist attacks” by calling for the government to suspend admitting
refugees to this country “is precisely what terrorists want,” said

“They commit these
atrocities to disrupt our lives, make us look over our shoulders, and to turn
neighbor against neighbor in fear. We cannot allow the United States to fall
into that trap,” he added.

In the debate over refugees, “we
cannot abandon the core principles that we stand for as a nation,” said
Kaine. “Refugees are not our enemies. ISIL (the Islamic State) is our

“America’s response to
these attacks should be to take the fight to ISIL abroad and to strengthen our
national security at home,” he said. “Our response should not be to
slam the door on the children and families fleeing ISIL terrorism themselves.”

Rabbi Jack Moline, executive
director of the Interfaith Alliance, said barring refugees from the U.S.
because they are Muslim is a violation of the Constitution, which “says
there should be no religious test” for running for office, for “our
compassion” or for “the humanity of a refugee.”

“If the legacy of this
country is to give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, what
does it mean when our fellow human beings who are running for their lives for
their lives ask us to be true to that legacy? It means no religious test,” the
rabbi said.

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