Like many of you, I’ve been following, at least a little
bit, the ongoing Syrian refugee situation.
Refugees fleeing the so-called Islamic State will be arriving in the
United States soon. It’s been more
controversial than I’d imagined.
I’ve heard and read the news reports. I’ve seen the internet
memes. I’ve read the claims that ISIL
will use the refugee situation to sneak terrorists into the United States,
although I’ve seen little in the way of hard evidence to support these
claims. I’ve read of state governors, in
Texas and elsewhere, proclaiming that Syrian refugees will not be allowed into
their states—although, Xth Amendment notwithstanding, I’m not convinced they
have the Constitutional authority to make such decisions. And, of course, I’ve seen all kinds of social
media posts and polls asking the big question: Should Syrian refugees be
allowed to enter the United States?
So, for those (if any) who care, here is my opinion: I am in
favor of allowing Syrian refugees to settle in the United States.
Because I would want someone to do that for me and my family
if the situations were reversed.
I can’t imagine what these people are going through—driven
from their homes by threat of violence, forced to leave behind everything
they’ve known and make a new start in a strange country. There is nothing in my experience that even
comes close to that. I can’t relate.
But I have family who can.
Because I count among my ancestors some of the Mormon pioneers.
They were refugees, too.
Outsiders? Foreigners? Subversives?
Evil? The Mormons were called all
of these things, and worse. They were
expelled from their homes and their society, and traveled hundreds of miles to
make a new start somewhere else. A few
welcomed them, but most treated them with suspicion and mistrust. Persecution eventually began, and culminated
with the expulsion of the Mormons under threat of violence—by their own
government, in at least one case. So
they would leave, and the whole process would start all over again.
My wife, and therefore my children, are descendants of
Brigham Young. He was there when the
Mormons were driven out of Ohio, driven out of Missouri, and driven out of
Illinois into the Iowa Territory. He led
them, over the course of two years, across what is now Iowa, Nebraska, and
Wyoming into what was then another country (Mexico) and into the valley of the Great Salt
Lake. He helped them settle there,
in a desert valley that was available because nobody else wanted it.
I read the accounts of that migration and settlement, and I
marvel. I can’t take it all in. I can’t conceive of how these pioneers
endured all the hardships, all the persecution, all the threats to life and
limb, and didn’t just give up. I can’t
understand the extent of their suffering.
It seems to me a shame and a waste for my ancestors to have
suffered so much for me not to learn something from their experiences.
So yes, I can, at least by proxy, empathize with the plight
of the refugees fleeing ISIL. And I’m
okay with them having a home here.