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viewpoint

Compassion in the face of fear

| Thursday, December 10, 2015

Since violence broke out in Syria in 2011, more than 200,000 people have been killed by violence, nearly 8 million within Syria have been driven from their homes, and at least another 4 million have fled to other countries to escape what is rapidly becoming a complex proxy war. For years, those fleeing conflict have been forced to risk life and limb by seeking passage through the Balkans and across the Mediterranean Sea, resulting in many deaths and what the United Nations has called the “worst crisis for almost a quarter of a century.”

In recent weeks, 31 United States governors have voiced a vehement opposition to the continued resettlement of Syrian refugees within their states’ borders. Moreover, the House of Representatives recently initiated two pieces of legislation that would drastically belabor the already exhaustive refugee screening process. On Nov. 19, it passed H.R. 4038, which would restrict the rate at which the Syrian refugees are accepted through U.N. referral by requiring the personal approval of not only the Secretary of Homeland Security but also the Directors of the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) and the Department of National Intelligence. In addition, the House recently sent the proposed H.R. 4078 “Give States a Chance” bill to the House judiciary committee, which would grant governors the ability to refuse resettlement of federally approved Syrian refugees if the number of refugees already in their states is “too high” or they are not “reasonably satisfied” with the federal screening process.

We, the undersigned, believe the reasoning behind these measures and their detrimental effect on the U.S. refugee resettlement policy is not only mistaken but also unjust, and we voice our support for the continued resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the U.S. We — in accordance with the Catholic Social Tradition on human dignity and in recognition of our shared humanity with those afflicted by this humanitarian crisis — believe we have a moral responsibility to care for those seeking refuge within our borders. We must remember, as Pope Francis said, “behind these statistics are people, each of them with a name, a face, a story, an inalienable dignity which is theirs as a child of God.” If we do nothing while our nation closes its borders to those who are in desperate need of safety, we become passive bystanders to and accomplices in injustice.

As a collective, we believe we must not respond to acts of terror with fear — which only increases destructive division and violence — but with unwavering compassion. The refugee vetting process is already thorough and intensely competitive, taking an average of between 18 and 24 months from referral to arrival in the U.S. During this time, refugees are subjected to the highest level of security checks required of any incoming traveler. Refugee applicants are subject to screening from several agencies including the FBI, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community. Less than one percent of the global refugee population makes it past the initial screening with U.N. organizations. Demanding an even more rigorous security screening before the refugees’ resettlement in the U.S. will likely cause undue delay or outright rejection of innocent refugees, resulting in a denial of their basic human rights to freedom from oppression, free practice of religion and physical safety. Furthermore, such an action could potentially cost refugees their lives, especially as winter begins in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Eastern Europe.

As citizens of the world, we cannot justify additions to an already rigorous screening process in the name of our safety if it will come at the expense of human life and dignity. We cannot justify the refusal of basic human rights to innocents — particularly when the heightened security screening cannot even guarantee the safety that it attempts to promise. We hope that in sharing these words, we can encourage the University of Notre Dame to continue to be the lighthouse that Fr. Theodore Hesburgh envisioned, lighting the path to affirm our responsibility and willingness to welcome refugees in accordance with this identity. We must be willing to give food to the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty and to welcome the stranger. We call to mind the Christian image of Mary and Joseph during this season of Advent, as they migrate to Bethlehem as strangers seeking shelter. We thank Fr. Jenkins for his Thanksgiving announcement encouraging the Notre Dame student body to “not be cowed by terrorists into turning our backs on our Syrian brothers and sisters, but instead — and in the name of Our Lady of Refuge — share with them our bounty and protection.”

Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy (SCIA)

Martha Villegas, President

Jessica Pedroza, Co Vice-President

Ana I. Rodelas, Co Vice-President

Hannah Legatzke, Secretary

Adriana Cantos, Treasurer

Libertad Heredia, Video Director

Juan Rangel, Class of 2015, Founder of SCIA

Chizo Ekechukwu, On Behalf of Diversity Council of Notre Dame

Teresa Kennedy and Brittany Ebeling, On Behalf of Human Rights ND

Matthew Caponigro, On Behalf of Notre Dame in Solidarity with Syria

Steven Fisher, On Behalf of ND Peace Fellowship

Michelle McCarthy, On Behalf of College Democrats of Notre Dame

Bryan Ricketts, On Behalf of Student Government

Kelly McGee, On Behalf of Arabic Club

Liyana Yusof, On Behalf of the Muslim Students Association

Zoe Rae Rote, On Behalf of the World Hunger Coalition

Kimberly Smith, On Behalf of Hispanic Engineers and Scientists

Rachel Wallace and Ray’Von Jones, On Behalf of Shades of Ebony

Reynaldo Lopez, Class of 2016

Flor Lizett Flores, Class of 2016

Adrian Mark Lore, Class of 2019

Cristina McCabe, Class of 2017

Grace Watkins, Class of 2017

CJ (Caleb) Pine, Class of 2017

Kyle Witzigman, Class of 2016

Monica Barboza, Class of 2017

Daniel Passon, Class of 2016

Alexis Doyle, Class of 2017

John King, Class of 2016

Maya Jain, Class of 2017

Brenna Leahy, Class of 2017

Annie Kuster, Class of 2016

Carter Boyd, Class of 2016

Adam Rene Rosenbaum, Class of 2016

Dan (April) Feng, Class of 2017

Corey Robinson, Class of 2016

Monica Montgomery, Class of 2019

Bridget Rickard, Class of 2018

Cesar Hernandez, Class of 2017

Dan Sehlhorst, Class of 2016

Joshua Napierkowski, Class of 2016

Ruth Cooper, Class of 2017

Maxwell Ujdak, Class of 2018

Rose Urankar, Class of 2016

Danny (Daniel) Martin, Class of 2017

Nick Courtney, Class of 2018

Patrick Donegan, Class of 2017

Julianna Vidales, Class of 2018

Francesco Tassi, Class of 2018

Cameron Hart, Class of 2017

John McCready, Class of 2017

Jennifer Cha, Class of 2017

Philip Wilson, Class of 2017

Victoria Velasquez, Class of 2017

Katarina Goitz, Class of 2016

Patrick Kearney, Class of 2016

Madeleine Paulsen, Class of 2017

Michael McFadden, Class of 2016

Kathleen Kollman, Class of 2017

Angela Bird, Class of 2016

Jenna Knapp, Class of 2010, Masters Class of 2016

Jenny Ng, Class of 2017

Michael Dinh, Class of 2016

Sharia Smith, Class of 2016

Lauren Boutros, Class of 2019

Katherine Luotto, Class of 2017

Tessa Laubacher, Class of 2016

Laura LeBrun, Class of 2016

Jacob Dean, Class of 2016

Claire Kouatli, Class of 2016

Kathleen Kennedy, Class of 2016

Mariel Kennedy, Class of 2016

Alexandra Bohnsack, Class of 2016

Maria Sierra Caceres, Class of 2019

Maria A. Munoz-Robles, Class of 2018

Brizzia G. Munoz-Robles, Class of 2018

Lauren Crawford, Class of 2016

Veronica Feliz, Class of 2016

Xitlaly Estrada, Class of 2017

Daniel Esparza, Class of 2017

Armani “Niko” Porter, Class of 2018

Gerard Martinez, Class of 2016

Jasmine Winston, Class of 2018

Kelly McGarry, Class of 2017

Nidia Ruelas, Class of 2016

Brian Mukhaya, Class of 2017

Jessica Peck, Class of 2016

Liam E. O’Connor, Class of 2016

Sarah Morris, Class of 2016

Laura Camarata, Class of 2016

Annemarie Coman, Class of 2016

Megan Schilling, Class of 2016

Kaitlin Farren, Class of 2017

Gavin Hsu, Class of 2016

Colleen McLinden, Class of 2016

Nicholas Schilling, Class of 2014, J.D. ‘17

Katrina Linden, Class of 2016

Roge Karma, Class of 2018

Rosemary Pfaff, Class of 2018

Danielle L’Heureux, Class of 2018

Ryan Leen, Class of 2017

Nina Jones, Class of 2016

Brendan Pelkey, Class of 2016

Maddie Braman, Class of 2016

Savannah Wunderlich, Class of 2016

Anna Poteraj, Class of 2016

Caitlin Rosswurm, Class of 2019

Laura Hernandez, Class of 2019

Claire Pugh, Class of 2018

Joseph Wolf, Class of 2017

Margaret Moran, Class of 2017

Margaret Gentine, Class of 2018

Roxana Rodriguez Garcia, Class of 2018

Keith Loh, Class of 2016

Laura Housman, Class of 2017

Dana Deradoorian, Class of 2017

Hannah Petersen, Class of 2016

Maggie McDowell, Class of 2016

Monica Gorman, Class of 2016

Liam Cawley, Class of 2015

Lucinda Krahl, Class of 2016

Erick Tapia, Class of 2018

Will Harris, Class of 2016

Angela Lederach, PhD student Anthropology and Peace Studies

Leo Guardado, PhD student Theology and Peace Studies

A. Giray Yaglikci, PhD Student, Computer Science and Engineering

Finola Prendergast, PhD student in the Department of English

Caleb Ontiveros, PhD student, Philosophy

John Hanson, PhD student, History and Philosophy of Science

Michael Rauschenbach, PhD student, Philosophy

Rachel Jonker, PhD student, Philosophy

Karie Cross, PhD student, Peace Studies and Political Science

Clair Mesick, PhD student, Theology

Ting Cho Lau, PhD student, Philosophy

Callie Phillips, PhD student, Philosophy

Dustin Crummett, PhD student, Philosophy

Katie Comeau, PhD student, Sociology

Patrick Gamez, PhD student, Philosophy

Ryan Hammond, PhD student, Philosophy

Francis Bonenfant-Juwong, PhD Candidate, History and Peace Studies

M. Tahir Kilavuz, PhD Student, Political Science

James Strasburg, PhD student, History

Catherine Bronson PhD; Islam/Arabic

William Smith, PhD student, History

Justin Christy, PhD student, Philosophy

David Pattillo, PhD student, Philosophy

Peter Finocchiaro, PhD student, Philosophy

Matteo Bianchetti, PhD student, Philosophy

Timothy Matovina, Professor of Theology, Institute for Latino Studies Co-Director

Karen Richman, Director, Undergraduate Studies, Institute for Latino Studies, and Creole Language and

Culture Program

Marisel Moreno, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures

Fr. Daniel Groody, CSC, Associate Professor of Theology ND

Alex E. Chávez, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Fellow of the Institute for Latino Studies

John Duffy, Associate Professor of English, O’Malley Director of the University Writing Program

Abigail Salazar, Assistant Director of Multicultural and Graduate Student Ministries

Sarah McKibben, Associate Professor of Irish Language and Literature, Fellow of the Keough-Naughton

Institute for Irish Studies

Jason Ruiz, Associate Professor of American Studies

Katherine Taylor, Director of Global Health Training

Steve Reifenberg, Executive Director, Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Mary R. D’Angelo, Associate Professor Department of Theology

Fr. Kevin Sandberg, CSC, Director, Common Good Initiative

Christina Wolbrecht, Associate Professor of Political Science

Robert Goulding, Associate Professor, Program of Liberal Studies

Kevin Barry, Director, Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning

Joseph A. Buttigieg, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of English

Janet Kourany, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Concurrent Associate Professor of Gender Studies

Stuart Greene, Associate Professor of English with a joint appointment in Africana Studies

Patricia Blanchette, Professor of Philosophy

Lionel M. Jensen, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages & Cultures

Anne Leone, Research Assistant Professor, Romance Languages and Literatures

Katrina Barron, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Julia Douthwaite, Professor of French, Department of Romance Languages & Literatures

James P. Sterba, Professor of Philosophy

Maria McKenna, Africana Studies/Education, Schooling, and Society

Fr. Donald LaSalle. S.M.M., First Year of Studies

Gail Bederman, Associate Professor of History

Robert Walls, Assistant Professional Specialist, American Studies

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C.

Steve Tomasula, Professor, Department of English

Maria Tomasula, Michael P. Grace Professor, Department of Art, Art History & Design

Jill Godmilow, Emerita Professor, Department of Film, Television & Theatre

Dianne Pinderhughes, Department of Political Science, Department of Africana Studies

Karen Graubart, Associate Professor of History

Susan D. Blum, Professor of Anthropology

Cecilia Lucero, Advisor, First Year of Studies; Co-Director, Balfour-Hesburgh Scholars Program

Brian S Collier, Graduate Faculty, Institute for Educational Initiatives

Perin Gurel, Assistant Professor of American Studies

Marty Wolfson, Professor of Economics Emeritus

Benedict Giamo, Associate Professor of American Studies

Bill Purcell, Associate Director of Center for Social Concerns, Co-Director of CST Minor

Marsha Stevenson, Visual Arts Librarian

Thomas F. Anderson, Professor and Chair, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures

Philip Sakimoto, First Year of Studies

Bridget Hoyt, Snite Museum of Art

Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian

David Cortright, Director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace

Cheri Smith, Psychology Librarian, Program Director: Academic Outreach & Engagement

Leonor Wangensteen, Advisor, First Year of Studies, Coordinator for Support of Undocumented Students

Kathleen Opel, Director of Study Abroad, Notre Dame International

Richard Economakis, Associate Professor, Director, Graduate Studies in Architecture and Urbanism

School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame

Ernesto Verdeja, Associate Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies

Beth Klein, Staff, Kresge Law Library

Rosie McDowell, Center for Social Concerns

Jennifer Betz, Assistant Director MA Program, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

Sonia Gernes, Professor Emerita of English

Michelle Wirth, Assistant Professor of Psychology

Michael Hebbeler, Center for Social Concerns

Stephen Fredman, Professor of English

Maryam Meechka Zomorodian, Academic Advisor, First Year of Studies

Laura Walls, William and Hazel B. White Professor of English

Sandra Klein, Librarian, Kresge Law Library

Jennifer Nisevich, Notre Dame International

Christine Amstutz, Notre Dame International

Margaret Pfeil, Joint Appointment, Department of Theology and the Center for Social Concerns

Laura Bayard, Outreach Services Librarian

Jennifer A. Jones, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Latino Studies

Leslie L. Morgan, First Year of Studies & Africana Studies Librarian

Daniel A. Graff, Director, Higgins Labor Program

Nancy K. Stanton, Professor of Mathematics

Gena Robinson, Alliance for Catholic Education

Judith Benchaar, Administrative Assistant, Higgins Labor Program,

Ghada Bualuan, Associate Teaching Professor, Program of Arabic, Department of Classics

Lucien Steil, Associate Professor, School of Architecture

Kristin Shrader-Frechette, PhD, O’Neill Professor, Dept of Biological Sciences and Dept of Philosophy

Max Baker-Hytch, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Philosophy of Religion

David Lincicum, Associate Professor, Theology Department

Kate Morgan, Associate Director of Communications, Office of Campus Ministry

James Sterba, Professor of Philosophy

Catherine DeFauw, Administrative Assistant, Philosophy Department

Anne Jeffrey, Postdoctoral Fellow, Philosophy

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Punta Venyage

    “As citizens of the world, we cannot justify additions to an already
    rigorous screening process in the name of our safety if it will come at
    the expense of human life and dignity.”

    Please elaborate further.
    1) We do not have a “rigorous screening process” for those parts of the world; we don’t even have a database to query most of the refugees. Why not? Because the only people that would show up in our surveillance database are people who made themselves stick out in their communities (i.e. like those who have had bad encounters with the country’s government). But if the Syrian citizens in question have lived under the radar (as most people do), we have ZERO information to confirm who they are.

    2) Can you be more specific with the catch-all, powerful, and emotionally loaded language of “human life and dignity”? How, specifically, does preventing immigration to one country expense “human life and dignity”? What if the “human life and dignity” of OUR citizens is at risk?

    3) Why can’t we help the families that need it through FINANCIAL means? There is a successful refugee camp in Jordan, which is near their home, that needs our financial support. Why is the only solution being proposed one that involves a movement of people thousands of miles away from their home into a culture that they are generally uncomfortable with, when there is a logical, straight-forward approach of helping other Middle-Eastern countries with their refugee programs?

    4) I know Syrian refugees are the group that is in fashion right now, but what about the 48,000 homeless veterans we have on the streets every night, currently in our own country? Such a problem should equally merit our attention if our concern is “human life and dignity” for all people groups. Shouldn’t we help the marginalized and displaced in our own country first?

    • Johnny Whichard

      Thanks for point #1…. these people are delusional if they think we actually have a “rigorous” screening process. A “process” ran just as efficiently as the TSA or the screeners who let the San Bernadino shooters into our country… If one terrorist attack occurs, every single person who signed this letter will have blood on their hands….AMERICAN blood.

      • João Pedro Santos
      • Mr. Pockets

        If a gun owner does a background check to the best of his abilities, doesn’t find anything, sells someone a gun and then that gun is used in a mass shooting, is the gun owner culpable? Our legal system and at least a good portion of our population rightly argues no because they recognize that some people will inevitably slip through the cracks and that’s a danger that is built into society. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t allow gun sales and it certainly shouldn’t mean that we don’t allow Syrian refugees. People will slip through, but why should we (after one tragedy) hold refugees to a standard that we are not willing to hold gun purchasing to after countless mass shootings?

        • Johnny Whichard

          Ahhhh. Civil Discourse, Mr. Pockets 🙂

          Two entirely separate issues for the United States!

          Here’s why:
          – These “refugees” are NOT Americans. The United States government has one primary responsibility…to protect its own people. Given ISIS has been using the Syrian refugee crisis to move its own people, it hardly seems that letting in refugees has any actual benefit to AMERICANS.
          – I’d rather not go down the gun debate…but Mr. Pockets, I think you can probably tell by now that I’m a pretty hardcore conservative….I believe guns can save lives and protect people. Guns protect more Americans than they kill. Obviously there are bad apples who have guns…but I don’t see the gun debate as a fair comparison to the refugee issue. Firearms have constitutional backing in our country….letting in a huge group of people (whom we KNOW have some hardcore badapples) does not.

  • Punta Venyage

    I hope everyone who has signed this is also willing to take moral responsibility for the 2016 migrant attacks against women in Europe, as it is directly related to support for refugee immigration.
    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/635359/migrant-sex-attacks-Germany-Dortmund-refugees-Merkel

    Every rational personal is for helping people escape a bad environment, ALL ELSE BEING EQUAL.
    However, the realities of the situation aren’t so clear-cut; we have to acknowledge that our support for Islamists coming into the West increases the frequency of attacks on women and LGBTQ people

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3402706/Two-German-transgender-women-STONED-street-gang-three-North-African-teenagers-Dortmund-said-people-killed.html

    and then we have to weigh accordingly if it’s worth it.