Thursday, November 19, 2015

Refuge in Howard

Two days ago, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued the following statement:
As governor of Maryland, the safety and security of Marylanders remains my first priority. Following the terrorist attacks on Paris just four days ago, and after careful consideration, I am now requesting that federal authorities cease any additional settlements of refugees from Syria in Maryland until the U.S. government can provide appropriate assurances that refugees from Syria pose no threat to public safety.
There are many things wrong with this statement.  First, the reference to the attacks on Paris suggests that the attackers were Syrian refugees.  That is incorrect. We don't know all the facts yet, but we do know that most of the attackers were French and Belgian nationals.  One of the attackers had a fake Syrian passport, but is of unknown origin.  Hence, this statement begins based on what can best described as an "urban myth".

Second, the Governor presumes some degree of authority over the federal placement of international refugees in Maryland and/or the "security" of Maryland's borders.  Last time I checked, the only distinction between Maryland and Pennsylvania is a difference in road paving materials.  The Governor's authority to limit refugees rests entirely on the cooperation of social services within the state.  Said otherwise, all Governor Hogan can do is refuse to offer assistance to refugees once they arrive, which raises legal issues of an entirely different sort.

Finally, Governor Hogan's statement fails in asking the federal government to prove a negative.  Stating that you wish to foreclose all refugees until the U.S. government can "provide appropriate assurances that refugees from Syria pose no threat to public safety" is a waste of digital ink.  No one can prove that an entire demographic will pose "no threat to public safety".  In fact, in an irony that was not lost on most, the front page of the Baltimore Sun yesterday included an article about Hogan's rejection of refugees and an article about a white kid from Pennsylvania picking up a gun from his parents' house and closing down an entire university for two weeks.  Please, no more white kids from Pennsylvania until the U.S. government can provide appropriate assurances that white kids from Pennsylvania pose no threat to public safety...and will not shut down our institutions of higher learning.

This is a scary time, folks, and not the way many may have you believe.  People running for President of the United States have suggested that there should be a religious test for those fleeing violence.  Others are suggesting we can, and should, close down certain religious facilities due to over-generalities and prejudices of violence.  We are repeating our most embarrassing and shameful moments without any reasonable explanation for doing so.

Just as Governor Hogan has no legal authority to refuse refugees, Howard County has no prohibition against going over his head.  We can, and should, reach out to federal authorities and nonprofit relief organizations to assist in the placement of refugees here, regardless of their nation of origin.  In order to be accepted as a refugee in the United States, one must go through 18-24 months of screening, multiple interviews, and a background check.  This is not an easy process and, had the Governor done one Google's search worth of research, he would have known that.  The unfortunate thing is that I don't think he cared.  This is political posturing, not policy.

Tell me if you've heard this one before: "Howard County is one of the wealthiest counties, in one of the wealthiest states, in the wealthiest country in the world."  Don't listen to the people who try to put manufactured scarcity or unfounded security concerns before the basic principle that we are the home of the brave.  Bravery is not just something we sing about at sporting events.  It means taking risks in pursuit of our virtues.  Being proud of being extraordinary.  Holding that torch high in the air and saying "This place is safe."

One last thing - After Attacks, France Increases the Commitment to Refugees

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!