Guest Editorial: 10 reasons to ignore all those governors

Syrian refugees families who came from Kobani district living in refugees tent in Suruc district, October 20, 2015, Turkey, Sanliurfa. (Photo by Orlok /

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How about that backlash, eh?

Wes Magruder, chair of the board of Refugee Services of TexasThe general goodwill that has been building the last few months toward Syrian refugees all but disappeared faster than you can say, “Bonjour” after the horror in France. Apparently, compassion is one of the first victims of terrorism. Add a mixture of fear, partisanship and general confusion, and you have what happened in America Nov. 16, when a bunch of Republican governors and one Democratic colleague woke up and decided to remove the welcome mat for Syrian refugees.

It’s much to do about absolutely nothing. Here are 10 good reasons to ignore the governors’ responses to Syrian refugees.

1. Responsibility for setting refugee policy rests solely in the executive branch, according to the Refugee Act of 1980. No matter what the states say, it’s up to the president to determine which refugees can—or can’t—come in. So fire away, govs. It’s just not up to you.

2. Worried about terrorism? Aren’t we all? That’s why refugees already are “the single-most scrutinized and vetted individuals to travel to the United States,” according to Refugee Services of Texas CEO Aaron Rippenkroeger. Refugees spend from 18 months to two years waiting on the results of their security checks before they come to America.

3. The Old Testament is pretty clear on this. To cite just one example of many, “You shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34). The word for “alien” in Hebrew does not refer to little green men from Mars; it’s the word ger, and it is best translated as “foreigner,” as in sojourner, temporary dweller, a newcomer with no inherited rights. In other words, a refugee! There are all sorts of laws meant to protect, care for and support refugees in the Hebrew Scripture.

4. Remember this cute slogan: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” Even though John Wesley didn’t actually say it, Methodists try to take it to heart. The governors are trying to keep them—and fellow Christians—from doing this particular kind of good.

5. Fear-mongering may lead to more votes, but fear itself leads to bad policy. These responses simply are an irrational reaction to the repulsion we all felt for the terrorist attacks in Paris. We are called to “be not afraid.”

6. Just because your friends are doing it doesn’t make it right. News first broke in Michigan and then in Texas, and next thing you know, there was an avalanche of governors announcing they were refusing Syrians. When every one of the 28 governors except one is Republican, then you should recognize that you’re watching folks jumping on a bash-Obama bandwagon.

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7. Only two and a half short months ago, we were all abuzz about the pictures of a little boy washed up on a beach in Turkey. There was a flurry of sympathy for the refugees, and international cries for support and welcome. It highlighted the plight of the men, women and children who take desperate measures to escape terrorism in Syria. And guess what? Their plight hasn’t changed. Our response shouldn’t change either.

8. This is partly also about the fear of Islam. Most of the governors are wise not to admit this out loud, but leave it to Ted Cruz to voice it openly: “President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America—it is nothing less than lunacy. On the other hand, Christians who are being targeted for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them. … There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” Is a comment necessary here?

9. Jesus was a refugee. Matthew 2:13-15. Look it up.

10. Did I already mention the governors don’t have the power to actually enforce this? Yeah, I thought so.

Wes Magruder is senior pastor of Kessler Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, chair of the board of the nonprofit Refugee Services of Texas and author of the book, Jesus was a Refugee. This article originally was published as “10 Reasons why United Methodists should ignore Republican governors” in the United Methodist Reporter and is republished with his permission. To see the original article on the UMR website, click here.

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