|From an anti-immigrant rally in Bratislava in September|
Governor Susana Martinez
Office of the Governor
490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501
Hours after I mailed my letter yesterday, imploring you not to join the shameful example of other states whose governors announced an intention to block refugees from Syria from entering their states, your office issued a statement which included this message:
The Governor strongly opposes the Obama Administration’s plan to accept more Syrian refugees until there is a very clear plan in place to properly vet and place the refugees, and the voices of governors and the public can be heard.
To begin with: there is such a plan in place, and has been for decades. Refugees seeking admittance to the United States are vetted extensively in an inter-agency process. The success rate appears to be 100% as I cannot find a case where someone admitted to the United States as a refugee has engaged in terrorism. Can you? Making a statement that suggests our process for considering refugee applications is not already clear and effective is wrong and undermines public confidence in an effective public institution, without cause.
The terrorists who hit our country on September 11, 2001 were in the country on student and tourist visas. Will you also announce that tourists and students from the middle east are no longer welcome in New Mexico?
The federal government has made a commitment to accepting 10,000 refugees from the humanitarian crisis in Syria. This is a much smaller commitment than our allies have made, even though we own much blame for the instability in a region that has provided a haven for terrorism. Terrorism is drawn to spaces where there is not effective government. We and our allies have created those spaces with our reckless policies of endless war and "regime change" at our will. Those fleeing the bloodshed in Syria are targets of ISIS, not its collaborators. As for the recent attacks in Paris, as of this morning the perpetrators are not Syrians, but european nationals. The suspect at large this morning is Belgian.
For several years, I worked with the American Jewish Committee in their Los Angeles headquarters. In that capacity I had frequent interaction with survivors of the Holocaust, and the generation that followed them. The history of that humanitarian crisis weighs on my mind. Can you imagine the United States refusing to admit Jewish refugees merely because they, like their oppressors, were German?
As a matter of law, a governor of a state cannot close its borders to people of a particular ethnic background at will, whether they are students, tourists, refugees, or naturalized citizens. These announcements are, therefore, simply for political gain. It is easy to stir up fear of immigrants, especially those from the middle east, especially those who are muslim.
Here in Deming, we have a number of families who have immigrated legally from Somalia. They wear traditional head coverings - I presume they are Sunni muslims. In any case, I think of them as I read of a nationwide backlash against ordinary muslim people as once again they are scapegoated and associated with the actions of terrorists. It weighs on my heart when my countrymen behave this way - and even worse when our political leaders, people like yourself, play to these dark sentiments.
It's hard to take back a statement like the one from your office yesterday, but you left yourself some wiggle room. I am lending my voice in the hope that you will take a step back from this position and speak on this matter with a little more wisdom and statesmanship - especially while you are being considered for a more prominent role in our country's governance.