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PRO/CON: Should U.S.

governors be
able to block Syrian refugees?
By Tribune News Service, adapted by Newsela staff on 12.18.15
Word Count 1,633

Syrian refugees wait at Marka Airport in Amman, Jordan, on Dec. 8, 2015, to complete their migration procedures to
Canada, which has announced that it will take around 25,000 Syrians from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Photo: AP/Raad
Adayleh

PRO: Governors want to prevent attacks in U.S.


President Barack Obama is once again faced with a problem of his own making. He has
no one to blame but himself if some people no longer trust what he says.

For seven years, the president has dismissed and insulted those who raise reasonable
concerns about his plans and decisions.

When those concerns have turned out to be correct, as they often have, he ignores the
evidence. Instead, he insults those who do not agree with him and claims that everything is
going well. Remember, for example, his assertion that the Islamic State group was being
contained." The attacks that followed that claim certainly proved those who questioned
him were right to be worried.

This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 1


So when 31 governors turned their thumbs down on Obamas decision to accept 10,000
Syrian refugees and distribute them among the states, they were sending a message.
They were saying, "We do not trust you to tell the truth. We do not trust you to screen the
refugees as carefully as you say you will."

Screening Refugees Might Not Work

Let us be clear: Every governor knows this is a country of immigrants. They know we have
long prided ourselves on offering generous help to the world's refugees.

They also know that the vast majority of the Syrian refugees would be honest and law-
abiding. Most are simply eeing a bloody civil war they had nothing to do with starting.
Many are eeing Islamic State, which has taken over parts of their war-torn country. They
would be thrilled to get a chance at a new start in America.

Even a vast majority is not 100 percent, however. If even a few Islamic State ghters
slipped in with the refugees, that could be a huge problem. The danger of that happening
is worth taking seriously.

However, Obama simply dismissed such concerns and ridiculed those who brought them
up. Apparently they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of
America, the president said. He then claimed that the screening process would be the
most careful and thorough process "conceivable.

Is that so? Remember when Obama boasted how well the government's healthcare
website would work? It turned out to have all sorts of serious problems. So what about
refugee screening technology? Why should we assume that would work any better?

Under normal conditions, most of us would take the presidents word. However, this
president has misled the public so often that he has not earned the benet of the doubt
and he is not getting it.

The governors resisting the refugee resettlement simply do not trust Obamas claim that all
the refugees will be screened extremely carefully. The public does not believe the
president either. Around 60 percent say they oppose the settling of Syrian refugees in their
states.

A Lack Of Trust

This same president keeps trying to move prisoners from Guantanamo, Cuba, to prisons in
the United States. The prisoners are all suspected of being militant Islamic ghters or their
supporters. The president has repeatedly assured governors the prisoners are not a threat.
He continues to make that claim even though more than 100 of those who have been
released have rejoined militant groups.

To make matters worse, the government has been making ridiculous statements about the
Syrian refugees.

This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 2


For example, it says that only 2 percent of Syrian refugees admitted to this country since
2011 are military-age males. So what? Anyone watching the news can see that many of
those currently eeing Syria are young or middle-aged men.

Even if the government restricted the 10,000 refugees to widows and orphans, widows
have brothers and orphans have uncles. Wouldnt there be a need to let other family
members in, to help provide for the resettled women and children? And, of course, some
militant attacks have been carried out by women.

Here is the point: Those who are frustrated with the refugee stalemate should be angry at
the president, not the governors. Obama entered the White House determined to prove
that big government can do big things well. Instead, he has increased Americans long-
held skepticism of big government.

I, for one, hope the president, Congress and state governors can nd a solution that will
allow us to offer shelter to the refugees. The lack of trust in this case is not targeted so
much at the Syrian refugees themselves. Rather, it is aimed at the White House.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute
for Policy Innovation in metropolitan Dallas. He holds a doctorate in
humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas. Readers may write him at
IPI, 1320 Greenway Drive, Irving, TX 75038.
This essay is available to Tribune News Service subscribers. Tribune did not
subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and
do not necessarily represent the views of Tribune or Newsela.

CON: Syrian refugees need our help


Thirty-one U.S. governors are refusing to let Syrian refugees settle in their states. The
refugees are eeing Syria's bloody civil war.

The governors are making a big mistake, and not just because they should be helping
people in need. Their behavior is actually helping Islamic State.

Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is a militant group. Its members are trying to spread their
own brand of Islam throughout the Middle East. They have conquered territory in Syria and
Iraq, where they are now battling both Western and Arab forces.

The group's dream is to establish an Islamic state shaped after its own beliefs. Their
ghters see themselves as being at war with the West.

Playing Into Fear

The rst thing we need to understand is that Islamic State is actually weak. The group
claims responsibility for many attacks it had nothing to do with, so it can appear stronger
than it actually is.

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Most recent attacks in Western countries have actually been the acts of do-it-yourself
militants unconnected to any group. But Islamic State does not want us to know that. It
wants us to believe its ghters are everywhere. It wants us to be afraid.

Islamic State also wants us to get angry and turn against Muslims everywhere. The group's
ghters want to make Muslims the enemy of the West. They believe if that happens,
millions of peaceful Muslims living around the world will join them.

Their goal is quite simple. They aim to divide us. They would like nothing more than to have
the Western world accept presidential candidate Donald Trumps ideas about tracking
Muslims in the U.S. They want us to see the world in terms of us against them.

Islamic State also want us to turn away Syrian and other Muslim refugees.

Eleven million Syrians have ed their homes since civil war broke out in 2011. More than
250,000 people have died in that war.

The ghting began as an attempt to remove Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, who many
see as undemocratic and oppressive. Over time, Islamic State ghters have become
increasingly involved in the war.

Islamic State also would like to see Assad gone, but its goal is not greater democracy.
Instead, the group hopes to seize power for itself. Many Syrians have ed the territories the
group's ghters now control, where they have introduced extremely harsh laws.

The current refugee crisis is the biggest since World War II, with Syrians now making up
the worlds largest refugee population. Most are struggling to nd new homes in Europe,
and the United States needs to help.

Living Up To Our Ideals

The U.S. government has pledged to take in 10,000 new Syrian refugees, many of whom
are eeing Islamic State. The refugees are supposed to be distributed among the states.

Many state governors are resisting these plans, however.

The governors say they are afraid that Islamic State ghters will sneak in among the
refugees. Their fear is not justied. The U.S. refugee-screening process is extremely
difcult to get through. Most refugees stay in camps for months to years while their
personal stories are checked.

About half of these refugees are children, while another quarter are elderly. Almost all of
the adults are either mothers or couples coming with children.

The 31 governors who are refusing to take in these war-torn refugees are not only going
against our ideals as a nation. They are also helping Islamic State by dividing us even
further. They are helping Islamic State by showing that our leaders want to turn away these
desperate families, simply because they are Muslim.

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They are also sending a message to the U.S. public that it is acceptable to fear and hate a
group of people. We should not allow them to do that. Every time that kind of thing has
happened in this country, we eventually realized we were wrong.

Let us not forget what is written on the Statue of Liberty:

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 turn away these victims of Islamic State?

Let us not accept this fear only to be proven wrong by history yet again. Instead, let us say
no to leaders who want to fan baseless fear. Let us light the way to a safer world by doing
the right and caring thing.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Don Kusler is the executive director of Americans for
Democratic Action, a national liberal advocacy organization
(www.adaction.org).
This essay is available to Tribune News Service subscribers. Tribune did not
subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and
do not necessarily represent the views of Tribune or Newsela.

This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 5


Quiz

1 Which statement from the PRO article BEST summarizes this author's point of view?

(A) Remember when Obama boasted how well the government's healthcare
website would work? It turned out to have all sorts of serious problems.

(B) The governors resisting the refugee resettlement simply do not trust
Obamas claim that all the refugees will be screened extremely carefully.

(C) To make matters worse, the government has been making ridiculous
statements about the Syrian refugees.

(D) I, for one, hope the president, Congress and state governors can nd a
solution that will allow us to offer shelter to the refugees.

2 Read the following claim by the PRO author.

[T]his president has misled the public so often that he has not earned
the benet of the doubt and he is not getting it.

Which of the following would be the MOST LIKELY response of the CON author, based on what
he wrote?

(A) The public's and the 31 governors' trust in the president is not important.
What is important is to realize that Islamic State is actually very weak.

(B) The public and the governors should trust the president no matter what. He
does not usually make mistakes and is a good president overall.

(C) The governors' trust in the president is not important. By refusing refugees
and acting fearful, they are giving Islamic State exactly what they want.

(D) There is not enough evidence to support the idea that Obama should not be
trusted. Every president makes mistakes.

This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 6


3 One of the the CON author's claims is that the governors' fear of Muslims is harmful.

Which of the following statements written by the CON author BEST supports this claim?

(A) They would like nothing more than to have the Western world accept
presidential candidate Donald Trumps ideas about tracking Muslims in the
U.S.

(B) The governors say they are afraid that Islamic State ghters will sneak in
among the refugees. Their fear is not justied.

(C) The 31 governors who are refusing to take in these war-torn refugees are not
only going against our ideals as a nation. They are also helping Islamic State
by dividing us even further.

(D) Let us not forget what is written on the Statue of Liberty: 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!

4 The PRO author claims that the 31 governors are acting reasonably in saying no to refugees.

Which of the following gives the BEST evidence to support this claim?

(A) [President Obama] has no one to blame but himself if some people no
longer trust what he says.

(B) Remember when Obama boasted how well the government's healthcare
website would work? It turned out to have all sorts of serious problems.

(C) The public does not believe the president either. Around 60 percent say they
oppose the settling of Syrian refugees in their states.

(D) This same president keeps trying to move prisoners from Guantanamo,
Cuba, to prisons in the United States.

This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 7


Answer Key

1 Which statement from the PRO article BEST summarizes this author's point of view?

(A) Remember when Obama boasted how well the government's healthcare
website would work? It turned out to have all sorts of serious problems.

(B) The governors resisting the refugee resettlement simply do not trust
Obamas claim that all the refugees will be screened extremely
carefully.

(C) To make matters worse, the government has been making ridiculous
statements about the Syrian refugees.

(D) I, for one, hope the president, Congress and state governors can nd a
solution that will allow us to offer shelter to the refugees.

2 Read the following claim by the PRO author.

[T]his president has misled the public so often that he has not earned
the benet of the doubt and he is not getting it.

Which of the following would be the MOST LIKELY response of the CON author, based on what
he wrote?

(A) The public's and the 31 governors' trust in the president is not important.
What is important is to realize that Islamic State is actually very weak.

(B) The public and the governors should trust the president no matter what. He
does not usually make mistakes and is a good president overall.

(C) The governors' trust in the president is not important. By refusing


refugees and acting fearful, they are giving Islamic State exactly what
they want.

(D) There is not enough evidence to support the idea that Obama should not be
trusted. Every president makes mistakes.

This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 8


3 One of the the CON author's claims is that the governors' fear of Muslims is harmful.

Which of the following statements written by the CON author BEST supports this claim?

(A) They would like nothing more than to have the Western world accept
presidential candidate Donald Trumps ideas about tracking Muslims in the
U.S.

(B) The governors say they are afraid that Islamic State ghters will sneak in
among the refugees. Their fear is not justied.

(C) The 31 governors who are refusing to take in these war-torn refugees
are not only going against our ideals as a nation. They are also helping
Islamic State by dividing us even further.

(D) Let us not forget what is written on the Statue of Liberty: 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!

4 The PRO author claims that the 31 governors are acting reasonably in saying no to refugees.

Which of the following gives the BEST evidence to support this claim?

(A) [President Obama] has no one to blame but himself if some people no
longer trust what he says.

(B) Remember when Obama boasted how well the government's healthcare
website would work? It turned out to have all sorts of serious problems.

(C) The public does not believe the president either. Around 60 percent say
they oppose the settling of Syrian refugees in their states.

(D) This same president keeps trying to move prisoners from Guantanamo,
Cuba, to prisons in the United States.

This article is available at 5 reading levels at https://newsela.com. 9