by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
December 17, 2015
CANADA SHOWS THE U.S. HOW TO WELCOME SYRIAN REFUGEES
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- We know that Canadians, the last few years of Stephen Harper's reign notwithstanding, are among the friendliest and most generous people in the world.
But even by the usual standards of Canadian Nice, you could not get a better example than the sight of Prime Minster Justin Trudeau personally greeting the first planeload of Syrian refugees in Toronto last week.
"You are home," he said. "You are safe at home now."
The refugees, who arrived in Toronto after a 16-hour flight in a Canadian military transport, were the first of 10,000 that will arrive in Canada in December.
Canada has pledged to take in a total of 25,000 Syrians before March 2016.
After helping some of the refugees pick out their winter coats to help make it through their first Canadian winter, Trudeau spoke these words:
"This is a wonderful night, where we get to show not just a planeload of new Canadians what Canada's all about, we get to show the world how to open our hearts and welcome in people who are fleeing extraordinarily difficult situations.
"They step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada - with social insurance numbers, with health cards and with the opportunity to become full Canadians.
"This is something we are able to do in this country because we define a Canadian not by his skin color or language or religion or background, but by a shared set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that, much like Canadians, people around the world share."
The Syrians who were on that flight were all sponsored by private citizens who stepped forward to help these refugees settle into their new homes. If there is a better way to counter the nihilistic violence of the Islamic State, and show the Muslim world what kindness and compassion look like, you can't do much better than this.
Canadians have a lot of experience taking in people fleeing war and oppression. And they don't seem to be a bunch of 'fraidy cats like the screeching conservatives in this country who think admitting refugees opens the United States up to terrorism.
Compare the reception that the Syrian refugees got from Trudeau to what is being done to them by Republican governors in this country.
The Atlanta Journal-Consitution reported last week that, after a newly-arrived family applied for food stamps and other state benefits, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order barring state agencies from having any involvement with the resettlement of Syrian refugees. Even though his executive order violates federal law, Deal is standing firm.
This came on the heels of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's order to suspend the resettlement of any new Syrian refugee families until the federal government could assure the state that they were properly vetted.
Pence and Deal are among 31 governors, all but one a Republican, that are barring Syrian refugees from their states in what is a total and abject overreaction to the Paris terror attacks of Nov. 13.
In the weeks since the Paris attacks, we have heard ridiculous statements about the refugees, such as Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott saying, "opening our door to them irresponsibly exposes our fellow Americans to unacceptable peril."
Or South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley calling them "a potential threat to our national security."
Or Maine Gov. Paul LePage saving that bringing refugees "without knowing who they are is to invite an attack on American soil."
Quite simply, the Republican governors are violating federal law. Governors do not have the power to bar people from immigrating to their states.
The Constitution gives all power over immigration to the federal government. And the U.S. government, by all accounts, has been pretty thorough about vetting the few refugees that have come to our country over the past year or so.
But as long as political hay can be made by fanning the flames of Islamaphobia, Republicans will do everything they can to block the Syrians from entering their states, and blocking them from receiving state assistance.
Are Canadians the only people who realize that every family that flees the violence spawned by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and comes to North America to prosper and live their lives free of fear is a big upraised middle finger to the terrorists? After all, if the Islamic State's caliphate is so wonderful, why would anyone want to leave?
Then again, given the violence and hatred that's being directed toward Muslims in this country of late, the Syrians going to Canada, given the opportunity to become citizens of a civilized nation have hit the jackpot. They're in a county that wants them, and they get health insurance, too.
Some day, maybe, the United States might catch up to Canada's example.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.