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Friday, June 2, 2023


Focus Friday: The Syrian refugee crisis


Gov. Greg Abbott is just one of over 30 governors to denounce opening their state to Syrian refugees | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

For this week’s Focus Friday, we discuss the Syrian refugee crisis and Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to attempt to deny Syrians from settling in Texas as refugees.

What is your first reaction to this decision?

Opinion columnist Caroline Cao: Upon reading the governor’s letter to President Obama, the first thing that flipped in my brain was “mass racial profiling.” This is Abbott’s passive aggressive way of saying “We should treat all Syrians as terrorists.” Bear in mind that the Syrian death toll was 4,200 in October alone.  Refugee families are trying to escape horrific violence, and the last thing they need is a place to close the door on their suffering, or worse, get accused of causing suffering.  It’s victim blaming. It’s declaring, “They don’t matter.” If we keep slamming these doors shut, there’s one less option of safety and sanctuary.

Opinion columnist Krishna Narra: I was initially irritated, but considering that Texas has a great reputation on taking the conservative stance, I wasn’t really surprised at all. Anti-Islamic sentiments seem to have always been particularly strong, even before the recent terrorist attacks, so it’s only natural that the governor would feel even more strongly about it. But above all, I am worried about the innocent refugees who make it here and are bound to face a great amount of persecution for the faults committed by those who poorly represent their religion. Even though I disagree with the governor’s stance, I also believe that there is a potential risk. But turning our backs on these people who need help is morally wrong.

Opinion columnist Samuel Pichowsky: My immediate reaction to Abbott’s policies is outrage. I do not believe it is a good policy nor a safe policy. I believe it puts Texas in even more danger and it puts the lives of innocent refugees in danger. Terrorists will use this kind of propaganda for recruitment. This is not a policy out of strength but out of fear and xenophobia. How is it the governor, a Christian, believes it is right to refuse asylum to those who need it, especially when it is so close to the holidays in which we celebrate the birth of our savior? How do we turn our backs on those seeking the very freedoms they were denied in their home country? I do not believe this policy represents the best of Texas nor the United States.

Should the governor be able to make this decision?

CC: No. The United States Refugee Act of 1980 stipulates in Title I that “Congress declares that it is the historic policy of the United States to respond to the urgent needs of persons subject to persecution in their homelands.” So Abbott’s shunning of Syrian refugees ignores the urgency of the matter. The Title II: Admission of Refugee section notes that refugees are defined as people fearing persecution in their own country.  Being that Syrian refugees are victims of persecution, I don’t see refugees as synonymous with “terrorist threats.”

KN: Even though I disagree with the governor, I do believe that this should be decided by the governor, as he is more directly responsible for what happens in the state. If he feels that his people are unsafe when others enter, it is his decision. This decision may be ridiculous, but nonetheless, if he’s in charge of our state, he ought to have the final say. Also, considering our governor’s personal sentiment, I don’t know how safe or welcome Syrian refugees would feel in a state as conservative as Texas.

SP: The governor should not be able to make this decision. The Refugee Act of 1980 delegates the power of refugee resettlement to the federal government and the president of the United States. I do believe this policy is illegal. To outright declare that no Syrian refugee will be admitted in Texas is a complete violation of federal law. Abbott should and probably does know better, seeing how he accuses everyone except himself of violating the Constitution and federal law.

-The Cougar opinion desk

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