By Don Kusler
The U.S. governors refusing to accept Syrian refugees are not only morally wrong; they're helping the Islamic State.
The first thing we need to understand is that the Islamic State is actually weak. It takes credit for any act of terrorism on Western soil so that it appears stronger than it actually is.
Most attacks linked to the group have actually been the acts of unaffiliated, do-it-yourself terrorists, but the Islamic State doesn't want us to know that. It wants us to believe it's everywhere. It wants us to fear it. It wants us to get angry and vilify Muslims everywhere.
The Islamic State believes that if it can make Muslims the enemy of the West, then millions of peaceful Muslims living around the world will have no choice but to join it. The goal is quite simple. It wants to divide us.
The group's members would like nothing more than to have the Western world embrace Donald Trump's idea of a Muslim database or ID patch. They want us to see the world in terms of us vs. them. And they want us to turn away Syrian and other Muslim refugees who are fleeing their reign of terror.
Since 2011, when violence broke out in Syria, 11 million Syrians have fled their homes for safety, and more than 250,000 people have died. This is the biggest refugee crisis since World War II, with Syrians now making up the world's largest refugee population. Most are struggling to find safe haven in Europe, and the United States needs to help.
Thirty-one governors have protested the admission of Syrian refugees, going as far as to say that their states will refuse to take them in.
The refugee screening process in the United States, however, is multilayered and extremely difficult to get through. Most refugees stay in temporary camps for months to years while their personal stories are evaluated and checked.
About half of these refugees are children; another quarter are elderly. Almost all the adults are either mothers or couples coming with children.
By protesting the acceptance of these refugees, these U.S. governors are not only going against our ideals as a nation, but they're also helping the Islamic State by dividing us even further. They are helping the Islamic State by showing that our leaders want to turn away these desperate families because it's us vs. them.
The 31 irresponsible governors are also sending a message to the U.S. public that fear, xenophobia, and even outright hate are validated. This ill-informed policy is not reflective of what is at the core of our national history. Every time reactionary U.S. leaders have followed similar paths in the past, their fears have been proven irrational, and we as a nation have had to correct course.
Let us not forget what is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, quite possibly America's most iconic symbol:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Can you honestly read that and feel we should reject these victims of the Islamic State?
Let's not accept this fear only to be proven wrong by history yet again. Instead, let's reject leaders, whether governors or members of Congress, who want to fan illogical fear.
Let's educate ourselves about the plight of refugees and the significant hurdles they must clear.
And let's light the way for a safer world by leading with an example of humanity.
Don Kusler is the executive director of Americans for Democratic Action (www.adaction.org) in Washington.