Would you welcome Syrian refugees in your community?

by AustinMom

I came across three links in my Facebook feed this week that I found very interesting. The first I thought it was a helpful primer. The second shows where those refugees already allowed into the US have been settled. The third shows those states opposed to and/or refusing to accept more refugees. My state is one that has a number of refugees and is “refusing” more. How do you feel about this? Would you welcome them into your community?

And, lastly, is a fourth link about the US opposition to accepting Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. Do you see this as the same or different and why?

Syria’s war: A 5-minute history

Paris Attacks Intensify Debate Over How Many Syrian Refugees to Allow Into the U.S.

Here’s a map of every state refusing to accept Syrian refugees

Pre-WWII poll shows that Americans did not want to accept Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany


154 thoughts on “Would you welcome Syrian refugees in your community?

  1. Austin, this is a great topic. A few weeks ago, the Young Ladies and I were driving someplace and there was something on NPR about the Syrian refugees. The three of us (possibly led by the one of us whose oldest and more prone to this line of thinking) were talking about how interesting/hypocritical/pathetic it is that we (the three of us in the car) like to proclaim that the USA reacted badly in WWII, that it should have expanded its immigration limits and certainly shouldn’t have refused to even meet them. And yet here we are, letting it happen to Syrians and not getting terribly bent out of shape about it–not enough that we’re actually doing anything about it, anyway.

    I haven’t checked the site to see if our state is allowing immigrants. We heard that night that there were many in OH, and we three vowed we would send money to the organization in charge. But, that’s a fairly lame response, and lamer still because I forgot to do it. I need to check my own decidedly UNheroic status before I complain again about the USA in WWII.

  2. We have refugees from Eritrea in our faith community. There are families with grandparents, middle aged folk and kids. It has been a gradual process of assimilation. They resettled without any fuss. I haven’t heard about any Syrian refugees. My city would definitely be on the list of places for resettlement as it has an lower cost of living, cheaper housing and jobs. It also has faith based NGOs, who have experience in international assistance. Resettement is a divisive issue. On the one hand, the is acute awareness of the plight of these families (I say families because, I am pretty sure that is who the U.S. will accept). OTOH, one part of the fear is how assimilation will go. Will the kids be an American success story like so many immigrants or will they turn out like the Boston bombers ?

  3. Our governor announced that we would welcome refugees, which I fully support. But I am sad to say that may of my fellow Hawaii residents are bitching and moaning about it and generally showing a lack of aloha spirit. The bitching and moaning takes more the form of “we already have such a homeless problem, last thing we need is a bunch of penniless refugees” rather than “it’s not saaaafe.” But it’s still not exactly what you could call showing our aloha.

  4. Texas has refused to allow in more Syrian refugees, but we have accepted 200+ so far, which makes us one of the largest recipients in the US.

  5. “The processes for screening refugees are already well-established and the timeline for background checks and screenings is not short.”

    My concern is that the government is trying to speed up the process, which may or may not lead to a less rigorous screening process. I don’t know much about this topic.

  6. certainly shouldn’t have refused to even meet them


    It’s Erik Larson’s book about the US Ambassador to German and his family in Berlin in the 30s. He was appointed by FDR and in his roll as Ambassador he oversaw a team of career foreign service personal. These career people, like many Americans at the time, were extremely antisemitic. Amb. Dodd found that out when he tried to get people out and was told no. He said, “Oh, we must be up against our quota.” To which the career people replied, “Oh no, we’re no where near our quota.”

  7. Houston – This is what I find so interesting…Have you heard about a single issue with a Syrian refugee? Even now with all the bruhaha, I have not come across a single “I told you so” type news story showing what awful thing happened because we let the already 200+ into our state.

  8. This came to my attention on facebook last week.


    Of course it is the same as in the years leading up to WWII. Nativism and xenophobia are made worse when the refugees are “other” in religion, which can be seen from the differential treatment of the white north European immigrants in the 19th century – Germans and Scandinavians versus the Irish Catholics coming to a predominantly Protestant country.

  9. Yes. The process is lengthy and difficult. And I think we have a moral obligation to do so. I’ve had to block some people on Facebook because of their ridiculousness over this issue. I understand the inclination to be scared and not allow anyone in, but a quick survey of the process and how it is handled should calm people down.

  10. I support bringing refugees into my community. I’m not sure where the proper balance is between helping as many as possible vs. not overwhelming the system and making sure there are proper supports in place to help them transition. And security is a concern too of course. But I think we should be working hard to figure out how to safely help them rather than turn our backs on these people altogether out of fear.

    That said, I’m really annoyed by the lack of nuance on both sides of this discussion (not here, on Facebook for instance.)

  11. Ok, I will be the first to say that I am very conflicted about the issue. On one hand, they do need a lot of help. However the ” how ” of it is where the problem is. The community does not have a good history of assimilation anywhere in the world and is very easy to radicalize. The radicalization can take place several generations in. This is very different from other communities that have historically been welcomed. Maybe the asylum could be temporary? After that the real effort should be directed towards making it easy for them to eventually return to their homeland, or is that thought completely ridiculous? I have not thought about the issue in depth. But I have strong opinions about our foreign policy that may be appropriate for some other forum.

  12. Yes, Rhett, that’s what we were talking about in the car that night – that the quotas weren’t close to being met back then. And we are so appalled about that, and yet here I sit, having done not one thing personally to help a single Syrian refugee.

  13. @Dell – IMO – temporary asylum wouldn’t work. It has to be all or nothing. The in between state, rootless existence is worse for people.

  14. Why Louise? We have a ton of workers who come here on visa, stay for a few years and are kicked out. Why is this any worse than that?

  15. Tons of people overstay their visas. Enforcement is very poor. How do you round them up and kick them out?

  16. A better comparison might be to the internment of Japanese-Americans on the west coast after Pearl Harbor. There was a barely legitimate concern that foreign spies or terrorists might be hiding among them.
    In the case of the Jews, there was no reason other than anti-Semitism to limit our assistance. Whatever other falsehoods were driving public perception and policy, I doubt that any serious person suspected that Jewish refugees might be planning to blow up a school.

  17. My understanding of refugee status is that it is dangerous to lethal for you to return to the place you are fleeing from. A refugee is different from a person who obtained a work or student visa in that obtain those visas knowing that their stay here is “temporary” though that can be a number of years and could be a pathway to citizenship. Or, as Houston notes, many just overstay their visas…I don’t know how they are able to obtain/maintain work other than in the underground economy.

    Dell – are you speaking of Syrian’s specifically?

  18. If ISIS wants to send terrorists, I would think it would be easier to send them across the southern border. Why bother to go thru the hassle of a refugee program? Maybe the refugees should be resettled in areas that do not have a huge illegal alien population right now. From my perspective it does not seem like the US is very good at assimilating immigrants. And what about all the people who get in through the visa waiver program?

  19. This isn’t a yes or no to me. I think the US is doing far more WRT the refugees than it gets “credit” for (primarily in Jordan and Turkey, and helping those states not destabilize). I think its right that much of that should be behind the scenes.

    I do not know enough about the genuine security issue for the US to otherwise have an informed opinion.

  20. I think that as long as they are carefully screened, we may as well take them. We take people from all sorts of violent places. And really, the scarier thing is that people can come in from the EU without visas. Many of the terrorists are French or Belgian nationals. I think that is where we need to tighten up.

  21. Let them in. The only substantial danger terrorism poses to a free and open society lies in the fearful reactions of those in the society. Our neighbor is from Damascus. When the Arab spring happened, I yammered on about the possibility of a free and open society in the Arab countries. He said that was too sanguine and he has been very prescient so far.

  22. Yes, I fully support taking in Syrian refugees – and I’m very glad that Washington State’s governor has publically stated his support for doing so. I think it’s highly unlikely a Syrian refugee would end up being a terrorist (it takes 2+ years in the refugee camps, lots of screening, no guarantee on which country they end up being resettled in). A terrorist is much more likely to come in on a student or tourist visa or already be in this country. I think the political attacks against Syrian refugees play right into the hands of ISIS in terms of deepening the schism between the West and Islamic countries.

    One of the Seattle Times newspaper columnists had a great article yesterday contrasting the response by President George W. Bush after 9/11 to the Republican presidential candidates. 6 days after 9/11, President Bush went to a mosque and gave a speech on “Islam is peace.”

    From the column: “Then, nearly 3,000 Americans were dead and Ground Zero was still smoking. Yet Bush still had the discernment to know it was wrong to blame everyone who practices one religion for the acts of fanatics. Watch the six-minute speech if you get a chance. He stands in front of a woman wearing a hijab, in a ceramic-tiled mosque, and talks about how the “face of terror” that we all had just witnessed in New York and Washington, D.C., “is not the true face of Islam.”

    At one point he (Bush) stresses: “These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that.”


    I am embarrassed and ashamed of the comments made by the Republican candidates that include banning all Syrian refugees unless they’re Christian (Cruz) or creating a database registry of all Muslims (Trump).

  23. I agree that we should accept Syrian refugees. Given Obama’s recent comments which to me indicated a shocking naïveté regarding the reality of ISIS et al., I don’t really blame governors for resisting accepting refugees until there is more clarity about the process. He has made several statements that seem to suggest that it is absurd to have any concerns at all. I suspect that the conversation would improve if there was more overt recognition that there may be a trade-off, but one we should be willing to make?

    “The only substantial danger terrorism poses to a free and open society lies in the fearful reactions of those in the society.”

    I agree that fearful reactions to terrorism pose a threat to a free and open society, but to say that it’s the “only substantial danger” posed by terrorism seems a bit much.

  24. My opinion is not very well informed, but I generally think that if we were fine with taking in refugees before the Paris attack, then we should be fine with it afterward too. Syrians are welcome in my community. Foreign policy should not be driven by knee-jerk reactions to information that didn’t even turn out to be true (initial reports that the attackers in Paris gained entry through the refugee system). I do have to say that I am appalled by how politicized this issue has become in the US. The way Trump, Cruz & others are playing into stereotypes and fears to attract voters is disgusting. And I am just dumbfounded that there are still so many people in our country who agree with that stuff. Where have all of the reasonable people gone? I want leaders who lead by example to increase tolerance in this country, not fearmongering that will drive us back into segregation, McCarthyism, etc.

    A college friend of mine has family still in Syria, and her US relatives have tried to get them to come here. So far, they have stayed because they know that leaving means giving up everything they have worked for their whole lives, and they don’t want to get separated and lose each other either. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to have to make that decision every day.

  25. “they assimilated so well that it’s apparently not common knowledge that there was a previous wave of Syrian refugees.”

    Count me among those enlightened to this fact.

    For those who say the terrorists won’t take the refugee path because that takes too long…these people are very patient. Assuming they can/will pass all the background checks and gain refugee status in the US, waiting a couple of years will not deter them.

    I believe we should be taking the “risk” of letting Syrian refugees into the US. It’s not just Syrians, btw. And the others should be admitted, too. Honestly, we can use the workers.

    Rhett, I read that book. Fascinating.

  26. Assuming they can/will pass all the background checks and gain refugee status in the US, waiting a couple of years will not deter them.

    Why would they wait vs. just sneaking across the border. Or, if your ISIS, just use people with EU citizenship who can enter the US without a visa.

  27. I have a degree in international relations and that qualifies me to say that I am in no way qualified to speak with any kind of authority on the middle east and or refugee policy as it relates to national security. What I don’t know about these two things could fill volumes!

    I can say that as a human being we should accept some number of refugees. I have a neighbor how is Syrian and while she is not a good friend she is always nice and friendly and we have shared many pleasant afternoons at birthday parties. Her daughter is at my kids’ school and is a nice, regular kid. The stories that she has of her family and the choices they have had to make and the separation they must endure is harrowing. So I only know one Syrian but what I do know is that she is very much like me and I have lived and traveled enough to know that at the core “they” are just like us. Most people just want to go to work, make a living, practice their faith or not, enjoy time with their family and friends and repeat. From a common sense aspect, how could condemning them to a life in camps do anything but make more terrorists?

  28. It’s a difficult situation for sure. Austinmom, is was specifically talking about the religious community they belong to. While this issue is new to our part of the world, Muslims have been “migrating” all over other parts of the world. Honestly it does not seem to me that they have a very good track record of assimilation but rather have a long record of bloody history that continues today. I am thinking about the little Pakistan in UK for example. The refusal to assimilate to the cultural ethos of the adopted country etc.

    I understand that there are easier ways of getting into the country but that is not all what I am concerned about. There are enough examples of parents being the ideal citizens and the children in 2,3, 4 th generations getting radicalized. Also, I think that the original reason for coming here matters. Are you coming here to escape the strife or are you coming here because you want to be a part of the American story. I dunno. I am still thinking this through.

  29. Not very many people outside the immigrant communities are aware of the legal process that legal immigrants (and refugees) face or the time it takes and paperwork required to get to citizenship. People at my various workplaces were shocked that the government knows everything about me.
    My elderly neighbors who are totally assimilated mentioned that they were from Lebanon. From HM’s article they are probably from that first wave. Very interesting.

  30. Honestly it does not seem to me that they have a very good track record of assimilation

    My understanding is that the US’s history of assimilating Muslims is exemplary.

  31. It seems like the track record of assimilation varies by group (even among Muslims) and by part of the country. I have several friends in our local Pakistani community and though they are very conservative Muslims, they seem to be doing a good job of assimilating while maintaining their cultural and religious customs. But then you have groups like the Somalis in Minneapolis that are having serious issues with radicalized youths.

    Anecdotally I’ve seen immigrants seem to assimilate better in small-mid size cities vs. in rural areas or large cities. Seems there’s a sweet spot where they have access to some who share their culture and language, but not an entire ethnic ghetto where they can live parallel lives without ever participating in the broader community.

  32. “2 out of 2.6 million is an exemplary record.”

    You at least have to add the Fort Hood shooter.

  33. “Anecdotally I’ve seen immigrants seem to assimilate better in small-mid size cities vs. in rural areas or large cities. Seems there’s a sweet spot where they have access to some who share their culture and language, but not an entire ethnic ghetto where they can live parallel lives without ever participating in the broader community”.

    I totally agree with this. That is why there has been the selection of small/mid-sized cities for resettlement and dispersement of refugees.

  34. You at least have to add the Fort Hood shooter.

    He wasn’t an immigrant, he was born in Arlington County, VA.

  35. HM,

    My understanding is the Refugee Act of 1980 means that governors have no real say in the matter. It’s all just political grandstanding.

  36. Rio,

    Which one is Milo: the Seattle hipster dad graphic designer or the Atlanta urbanist political science professor?

  37. “That Twitter profile is nearly the polar opposite of how I imagine Milo.”

    Yeah, he’s a character.

    I don’t Tweet.

  38. I just saw the hipster guy with an earring and “a crush on social justice” and got a kick of what our Milo would think.

  39. Regarding the first wave of Syrian immigrants, any Betsy-Tacy fans out there? Remember in Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill they wind up walking to Little Syria, a community of recent Syrian immigrants? Sure you do.

  40. I think I have mentioned before that one of my close friends is a lawyer that works for the US govt. Her job is deport people that are in the US illegally. I’ve been listening to her for over ten years, and I have changed my point of view about immigration. There are long, long queues of people from all over that want to start a new (legal) life in the US. They wait for many years just to have a chance o come here legally, and yet there are unknown number of illegals. Her department doesn’t even know how many people are really in the US without papers. Even though this is her job, she meets people in this country EVERY day that are here illegally. In the nail salon, baby-sitters, house cleaners, construction, janitors etc. You can not even begin to imagine how many people have approached her for help when they find out that she works for this agency. They admit they are here illegally, and they want help.

    I want to help Syrian refugees, and allow them to enter this country. The problem is based on the stories that she has told me – there are so many horrible countries that are not Syria. These other countries are just as dangerous right now for different reasons, and more of their citizens should be allowed out if the US is going to open the borders to allow in more refugees. I just wish there could be a real policy to allow in more people from many countries that need a safe place like the US. It should be organized so it doesn’t crush the system. It can’t just be like the flavor of the month in November is Syria. Then the next crisis erupts and it is XYZ country. That is unfair to the people that have waited patiently for years in other dangerous countries.

    Also, she would be the first one to tell you that the process to insure new entrants to the US are safe is far from perfect. There are not enough staff, or even technology to keep up with the background checks that should occur for the people that enter this country legally. Once someone enters – even on a short term visa, it is very hard to ever find some of them again if they want to disappear.

  41. The Muslim kid who made the clock and got sent home from school has demanded $15 million in compensation from the entities that did him wrong. That suggests a great deal of assimilation on his part.

  42. Clock Boy is a total scammer. He never “made” a clock. He bought a digital clock and partially disassembled it. He was trying to stir the pot. As the saying goes, you don’t joke about bombs on an airplane.

  43. “These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that.”

    This is an example of a point made in the Atlantic article that Rhett posted recently — non-Muslim politicians purporting to proclaim to Muslims on the tenets of Islam. It’s pretty clear that the murderers who carry out these attacks believe that they are doing so in accordance with Islam. They don’t yell “Allahu akbar” as they start shooting because it is the first thing that happened to pop into their heads. They believe that Allah commands them to kill the infidels, and they can point to exact language in the Koran and other apparently authoritative (to some) texts that supports their actions. They are quite willing to martyr themselves, and now their wives and daughters, in the process. This is an inconvenient truth, but we ignore it at our peril.

    We can all name particular Muslims in our lives who are wonderful and peaceful people and are just as appalled as everyone else at this violence. More appalled, in many cases, for obvious reasons. But I find it appalling that imams who support violence and applaud terrorists are permitted to speak at major mosques. It’s like letting that Phelps guy give a homily at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I don’t think that “we” can solve the problem of Islamic-based terrorism until the spiritual leaders of Islam can find a way to reinterpret their faith to resemble what Bush and others think it is, AND to persuade all other Muslims to accept their authority. That is a very tall order, but otherwise there seems to be an endless supply of young men willing to blow themselves up and take others with them in the name of Allah, and in a free society it is very difficult to identify and stop them.

    As for the Syrian refugees, some of whom may be Christians or other non-Muslims fleeing persecution, I say let them in after rigorous screening. And make sure that they have support from all members of their community, not just other Syrians or other Muslims.

  44. A pause in accepting refugees makes sense to me. I think the president should try to unify us, instead of scolding and belittling those who raise concerns.

    The refugee issue has reached crisis levels in parts of Europe, and it’s reasonable to view this and wonder if the US will similarly suffer. The terrorist threat is real. Assimilation has been a problem in Europe and in some parts of the US. The administration has failed to seriously police our borders. The FBI director has expressed concern about the vetting process. Most Americans have reasonable concerns, yet they see an administration that mocks them and seems eager to brush aside their apprehension.

  45. “How would you define build a clock? Start with ore and sand?”

    To build anything, you start with simpler components and pieces and put them together. You don’t build something by disassembling the already-finished product.

    If I buy a new car, and remove the hood and passenger compartment, I didn’t build an engine.

  46. The Bible also advocates violence: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124494788 . Like Christianity, Islam has different sects, who don’t all interpret it the same way and who may hate each other (e.g. Sunni versus Shiite, ISIS versus the rest of the Muslim world). Christianity eventually outgrew the crusades and religious wars even without its “spiritual leaders” persuading all other Christians to follow their authority; Islam is a younger religion.

  47. To build anything, you start with simpler components and pieces and put them together.

    In an interview on Al Jazeera’s Ali Velshi on Target, Mohamed said the clock was “built from scrap around the house”

    How much simpler do the components and pieces have to be before it qualifies as building – in your estimation?

  48. Most Americans have reasonable concerns,

    The United States will have “absolutely no choice” but to close down some mosques where “some bad things are happening,” Donald Trump said in a recent interview, explaining his rationale for doing so.

    “Nobody wants to say this and nobody wants to shut down religious institutions or anything, but you know, you understand it. A lot of people understand it. We’re going to have no choice,” the Republican presidential said in an interview from Trump Tower on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Tuesday night.

    They certainly do…

  49. Rhett – It has to be simpler than the actual thing you claim to have built. What he did was take apart an existing clock and claimed to have built, well, a clock. The “scrap from around the house” was a scrap clock.

    “This is a commercial alarm clock, as you would purchase in any department store and use at your bedside,” says Talbot. “All that he did was remove the plastic case from the alarm clock. This is not an invention. This is not something that someone built or even assembled.” The technical evidence is bolstered by odd comments and conspicuous coincidences. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Ahmed says: “I closed it [the pencil box] with a cable, because I didn’t want to unlock it to make it seem like a threat, so I just used a simple cable, so it won’t look that much suspicious.” That’s, well, an odd consideration.


  50. It seems odd that you need to get so deep into parsing the meaning of the world build in order to justify this kids treatment.

  51. Rhett – There’s also the issue that his sister is claiming to have been suspended for making bomb threats in school.

    This family is not all there, but of course Obama and many Lefties were all too eager to eat up their victim story.

    Of course, if he had brought a cap gun to school and took it out in six different classes, he would have surely been suspended and nobody would bat an eye. Hell, if he even chewed a graham cracker into the shape of a weapon, that could be enough to suspend him.

  52. “It seems odd that you need to get so deep into parsing the meaning of the world build in order to justify this kids treatment.”

    Rhett – You’re the one who kept pushing for the distinction here.

  53. It seems your objection isn’t to the “build.” Even if he had built it out of ore, sand and crude oil, you’d still think he did it to get a rise out of the authorities.

  54. If he had actually built a clock, it would lend some credence to his claim that he built a clock. What he built was a device that was quite possibly intended to look like a bomb detonator to see what sort of trouble it might cause.

  55. “Was the response reasonable?”

    We really don’t know. It depends on what, exactly, he said about it or didn’t say. We do know that schools have established all sorts of “zero-tolerance” policies for talking about weapons (including fake weapons), bringing weapons or look-alike weapons, drawing weapons, and chewing weapons. In that context, and the fact that this 14-year-old kid was apparently so excited by the fact that he was able to transfer an alarm clock into a suitcase, and, according to his interviews, expected his teachers to be so impressed with his technical wizardry that he took it out to show everyone in SIX different classes, it seems like the school’s reaction was possibly reasonable.

    The reaction of the police sounds potentially problematic if he was not allowed to contact his parents.

  56. “The Bible also advocates violence”

    There is no place in the New Testament in which Jesus advocates violence against others, and especially not violence against others in his name. And apart from knocking down a few market stalls in the temple, Jesus himself never committed an act of violence. He even chastised Peter for cutting off the servant’s ear at the time of his arrest before the crucifixion. The Old Testament is filled with violence, but both the Jewish and Christian traditions make clear that those passages must be understood in context. Christians (and Jews) who murder others in the name of God are violating the tenets of their faith and Christian leaders immediately condemn such actions.

    Islam is not that much younger than Christianity. Muslims have had 15 centuries to decide that Allah does not command them to take up arms against the infidels. Yes, there is much disagreement among various groups of Muslims, but there are many inconsistencies in the Koran and no universally-recognized authoritative body or person to reconcile them. Non-Muslims can not do that job for them, much as some Western politicians have claimed otherwise.

  57. I think the school and police probably overreacted big time (though I don’t know all the details of course), but I think the narrative around the clock kid holding him up as some kind of genius hero is ridiculous. Even if he didn’t mean to be provocative, he was at least borderline dishonest regarding his claims of “inventing a clock.” Are we really supposed to believe that a brilliant high schooler is that proud of his ability to take something apart and stick it in a case? The future engineer types I know are way beyond that level.

    It also doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the kid’s dad was a politician in their home country of Sudan. Publicity stunts know no cultural bounds.


  58. From the link posted by costofcollege: “The imam of the Jalalia mosque, Mohammad Bashir Uddin, resigned last month in protest over radical preaching there. At the time Uddin, the imam, told a local newspaper: “People don’t understand the relationship between Salafism and terrorism.” Women from the same mosque have raised a petition against the use of Salafi speakers and the subjugation of women contained in their teachings, and given it to the mosque committee.‬” (sorry I don’t know how to use italics here)

    This. We need a lot more imams with the courage to speak out against the radicals recruiting in their communities.

  59. Islam is not that much younger than Christianity.

    Muhammad died in 632, Jesus died in ~32. 2015 – 600 = 1415. The 30 years war started in 1618, the Spanish Inquisition began 1487, at the same point in time we were both burning heretics and engaging in slaughter. Indeed, it is estimated that the 30 years war reduced the population of the German states by 25-40%.

  60. There should be some context to the current year and understanding of widely accepted beliefs about the value of human life. If Scientologists were promoting human trafficking and slavery, we wouldn’t say “Well, we’ll start the clock now and wait about 1800 years for their free period to expire. They’re new at this, give them some time. We owe them that much. This too shall pass.”

  61. From an essay by Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

    “As I see it, the fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts. It simply will not do for Muslims to claim that their religion has been “hijacked” by extremists. The killers of Islamic State and Nigeria’s Boko Haram cite the same religious texts that every other Muslim in the world considers sacrosanct.

    Instead of letting Islam off the hook with bland clichés about the religion of peace, we in the West need to challenge and debate the very substance of Islamic thought and practice. We need to hold Islam accountable for the acts of its most violent adherents and to demand that it reform or disavow the key beliefs that are used to justify those acts.”


    Ali lives under police protection. It is ironic that people react violently when accused of being violent.

  62. Rhett, today’s evangelicals are mounting their own version of “jihad” by unscrupulous conversions using seemingly bottomless wells of money and deceit. That action also needs appropriate resistance.

    The Muslim jihad problem has its own unique issues.

    I think that Texas schools action was extremely phobic and arrogant. It seems the kid does not get a pass either.

  63. Scarlett,

    I agree on what needs to happen. But, how do we make that happen? What does hold accountable mean?

  64. Rhett,
    Those are good questions. One way is for non-Muslims who know virtually nothing about Islam to stop insisting that “Islam is a religion of peace.” It probably wouldn’t hurt if politicians and so-called “thought leaders” paged through the Quran at least once. How about identifying and giving financial and perhaps bodyguard support to Muslim leaders worldwide who speak out against violent jihad?
    I don’t really know how to make it happen. I would like to read Ali’s book and see her proposals.

  65. I would counsel against bringing any kind of item real or fake that is weapon like without first asking the teacher.
    At my kids school, they are reasonable but there was a fake threat incident that was taken very seriously. Not necessarily thinking of terrorism but more about Columbine. We expect a lot from our teachers including serving as shields for our kids when in the line of fire. It may be overreacting but unfortunately teachers in schools face these sorts of incidents more frequently than we want to think.

  66. Scarlett,

    Per George W. Bush and Obama’s comments, I think you wildly underestimate how close we were and are to anti-Muslim pogroms. Especially after 9/11. If W had cranked up the anti-Muslim rhetoric, it could and would have gotten real scary real fast.

  67. Phobic of what?

    Do you honestly think they would have responded in precisely the same way if he was a nerdy white kid vs. a nerdy Muslim kid?

  68. White kids are suspended for bringing in fake weapons

    That wasn’t the question. Would things have gone precisely the same way if he was a nerdy white kid?

  69. According to Wiki the school district where this occurred is only about 10% white. Very diverse area. I really doubt this was a case where a redneck teacher had never seen a brown person before and jumped straight to bigoted assumptions about a Muslim teen being a terrorist. If anything it sounds like it may have been another case of zero tolerance gone bad. These happen all the time to kids of all races around the country. Take for instance this white 7th grader who was allegedly strip searched and subjected to blood tests when someone “felt threatened” by him twirling a pencil. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/07/ethan-chaplin-student-suspended-twirling-pencil_n_5106069.html

  70. Never mind. Yes was your answer :-)

    I don’t think most people would agree that his being Muslim had absolutely no bearing on how it all turned out in terms of his arrest, interrogation, etc.

  71. Rhett – seeing that we don’t know the details of what happened, I would say that we have absolutely no reason to believe that his ethnicity had anything to do with the outcome. Presuming otherwise would be unfair stereotyping.

  72. Scholastic News is trying to subtly indoctrinate schoolchildren to their side of the Syrian refugee debate ;)


  73. Milo,

    I assume we all agree that Squanto’s best option was to wait until their crops failed and they were weak with hunger and disease and then kill them all.

  74. I tried to post something earlier and lost it, but it was along the lines of Scarlett’s 4:19 post. I was listening to a piece the other day discussing the fact that the decrease in violence in the name of Christianity can be tied in part to the Reformation and its turn back to the primacy of the Biblical text (sola scriptura, etc.). As Scarlett pointed out, Christ’s commands to, for example, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” does not square with violence in his name, and so faithful adherence to the text results in condemnation of those acts. The question is whether more faithful adherence to the Koranic text would result in the same.

  75. I don’t know, Rhett. But if I were the least bit artistic, I’d like to redo that image with Trump behind a podium on the beach with his hat on pointing warily toward the ship.

  76. Rhett,

    Muslims and Jews are both well under 5% of the US population. Hate crimes against Jews are more common than hate crimes against all other religions put together. And very few hate crimes involve murder. https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/hate-crime/2012/topic-pages/victims/victims_final

    Anti-Muslim pogroms? We have never come close to that. And to suggest that President Bush might have “cranked up the anti-Muslim rhetoric” that would have triggered such violence is beyond absurd.

  77. We have never come close to that. And to suggest that President Bush might have “cranked up the anti-Muslim rhetoric” that would have triggered such violence is beyond absurd.

    Within your parents lifetimes we rounded up all the Japanese, disposed them of their lands and businesses and sent them to concentration camps. You think that something that happened in this country within living memory couldn’t happen again or be even worse? That’s awfully foolish to think, is it not?

  78. Coming late to the party, I resonate with Lauren’s friend who works in immigration. I want us to be a nation of laws, and if we pardon illegal immigrants while keeping out potential immigrants who have patiently waited their turns, we are rewarding their behavior.

    I agree that immigration law needs reform. I’d like to see a Constitutional amendment so being born in the U.S. doesn’t make you a citizen and an emphasis on prioritizing skills, rather than family relationships, in immigrant selection.

    I don’t know enough about the situation in Syria, not just this month but long term, to know if it’s worse than the situation in Sudan or Rwanda or Colombia.

    From what I’ve read about Jews who immigrated before WW II, most had some family or community to support their integration into US society. I don’t know if there Syrian immigrants would receive adequate support.

    My grandfather sponsored Latvian immigrants during the 1950’s, as part of a program through their church. While my grandfather was their legal sponsor, other people in the church helped by ensuring the father of the family had employment on various farms throughout the season, helped them learn English, gave them winter clothes and canned goods to get them through the Iowa winter, etc. The Latvian family was very appreciative- the grown children drove several hours to his funeral about 50 years later.

  79. You know who didn’t integrate? The Italians, the Polish, the Chinese, the Cubans and yet we love Little Italy, Polish Town, China Town, little Havana…… Come on people.

  80. Rhett,

    What happened to the Japanese was unconscionable. But it wasn’t a pogrom. And yes, I think that we have learned from the mistakes of the past. Within living memory, there were “colored” drinking fountains, legally segregated armed forces and public schools, no coed Ivy League colleges or service academies, residential restrictive covenants banning Jews, blatant employment discrimination against anyone who wasn’t a white male, and few provisions for the education of disabled children.

    I don’t think we’re going back there, and I think that the United States is probably the safest and most welcoming country for any racial or religious minority.

  81. I would hate to see birthright citizenship ended. It is a longstanding principle that I think is part of the essence of our country and I think taking it away would make it so much less likely that people (and their children) who do come illegally (and they will continue to do so, 14th amendment or not) here will assimilate and be productive.

  82. Scarlet,

    I think you’re under-weighting how close all of humanity is to such a thing. Say we had two strikes, maybe a dirty bomb, around the time Lehman went bankrupt and the economy was free fall? I could totally see a pogrom or two. Doubly likely if politicians and the media whipped themselves into a tizzy.

    In terms of W’s comments, he didn’t know what was coming next. As such, it was likely a good idea to keep the rhetoric as anodyne as possible.

  83. I too favor birthright citizenship.The kids have half a dozen friends who were born in USA to parents with foreign citizenship. Their parents all have hard science post graduate degrees, and the kids have lived here their whole lives. No way we should announce those kids have Indian or Russian or Japanese citizenship when they have never lived in any of those countries. I agree with Rhett (surprise): I am more worried about our well intentioned efforts to effect security than any terrorist.

  84. As Scarlett pointed out, Christ’s commands to, for example, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” does not square with violence in his name

    Careful, if you take that stuff too seriously you wind up Mennonite.

    I’d like to see a Constitutional amendment so being born in the U.S. doesn’t make you a citizen and an emphasis on prioritizing skills

    So in other words, you as an engineering major get to stay and I as a philosophy major get kicked out? Get a fucking grip.

  85. We had permanent residency but had to wait five years before applying for citizenship. In that period we bought our first house (secure that we were “permanent”) and had both our kids. Our citizenship came through a year after our second child was born. A lot of our friends were in the same situation. Some haven’t bothered to file the paperwork for citizenship when eligible but their kids are citizens.
    I think this is a very dicey situation as you can be deported for whatever reason to a country that you left legally ages ago. This could have been the case with the Rutgers student.

  86. Milo,

    Very interesting post.

    As a child I fantasized about a career in Finance owning my own company, making my own decisions, controlling money, just generally kicking ass.

    He wanted to be SoFlMom and he has come to realize that it’s never going to happen for him.

    -I feel that I’m alive, but not living.
    -I feel that money is pointless, I feel just as crappy at 350k net worth as I did at 100k
    -I feel afraid of the world.

    That sounds like clinical depression to me.

    I would add that he doesn’t seem to be doing anything fun with the money other than hoarding it. He’s living in a presumably dreary 2 family in a presumably dreary neighborhood, driving a dreary car, etc. No wonder he’s miserable. Maybe if he bought a pontoon boat, motorcycle, convertible, went to the Galapagos or on Safari or spent two weeks on an Island somewhere he’d feel better about life.


  87. Anyone else a bit on edge over the Russia/Turkey situation? This kind of thing is how wars can get started, right?

  88. I get to listen to 100 users complain all day.

    What does he think running his fantasy hedge fund is going to be like? It’s 11/24 and his biggest client has called again saying he’s pulling his money if they don’t beat the benchmark this year and he’s got 5 weeks to make it happen. The best trader just quit. The head of trading is feuding with the head of risk management. The SEC is breathing down his neck over some questionable trades. The GC’s alcoholism is getting out of control. Etc….etc….etc.

  89. DS was very excited when I suggested he read the biography of Steve Jobs for his English class.

  90. Louise, it is dicey and it can come back to haunt them if the unimaginable happens. For example, if they’re ever arrested for any reason. Drunk driving, white collar crime etc. It is better to be a citizen without the risk of deportation if anything happens related to any crime.

    I can not believe the sad stories that she tells me, but sometimes families are broken up if the children (only) are citizens.

    It is also complicated with child custody because one parent can take the American born country back to the home country in a dispute even though the kids are American. The parent that is still here has fewer rights to fight to bring the kids back if not a citizen.

    I used to think that everyone born here should be a citizen, but her office is FILLED with files of people that purposely abused the system so their babies would be Americans. This is a problem at both ends. The stories of the very rich flying here from Asian, Latin American countries to have babies is true. Same for the very poor that sneak in, and their babies are paid for by all of the existing taxpayers.

  91. “What does he think running his fantasy hedge fund is going to be like?”

    Good point. I still sympathize with the guy, much more than I would for someone who’s never worked to get a real job.

    “No wonder he’s miserable. Maybe if he bought a pontoon boat…”

    LOL. If I think about it, it’s kind of sad just how much excitement I’ve been getting out of anticipating this purchase. Best not to think like that.

  92. @Lauren – we are in the middle of those extremes. Made sure we followed the law. And had a great immigration lawyer. This is very important as people have gotten cheated by lawyers giving bad immigration advice.

  93. The stories of the very rich flying here from Asian, Latin American countries to have babies is true.

    Why is that a problem? It should be encouraged.

  94. “That sounds like clinical depression to me.”
    I always appreciate when Rhett points these things out.

  95. I have a hijack question. Our kids’ Spanish teacher has been out for over a month now due to a concussion. The sub they have had does not speak Spanish. Last week, the kids were told that the regular teacher was going to be out longer than planned and then would only be coming back part-time (I don’t know for how long). The kids say they aren’t learning anything because the sub doesn’t speak spanish and when he tries to teach, he doesn’t even pronounce a lot of words correctly. We emailed the principal last week expressing our concerns and asking what the long-term plan is. She replied back that the sub knows the curriculum very well because he used to sell it, and it includes watching a lot of videos, and the regular teacher is heavily involved in the lesson plans, so she’s confident that it is working well. Again, the kids say they aren’t learning anything.

    So how much would you push back on this? We haven’t liked this principal very much anyway, so that might be coloring our opinion, but the bottom line is the kids say they aren’t learning anything.

  96. Rhett – I agree with you on that MMM post too. He probably already had depressive tendencies, and now is also hitting the “quarter-life crisis” point where he realizes that adult life is not what he thought it was when he was 16, and it snowballs. My brain is torn between between feeling very sympathetic and rolling my eyes incredibly hard. I thought the posters were very nice & actually helpful. I never read those forums – is it always that friendly?

  97. DD,

    Is it possible for you to reach out to other parents and present a united front? I think if you push too hard individually there could be blow-back. But, if you come as a group the potential for individual blow-back is muted.

  98. Rhett, I think a better way to go would be asking parents to contact her individually about it. I don’t how you could really do it as a group – there would be a leader (us) who would get the blowback if there is any. But based on how she’s handled other issues where there was a lot of feedback (the gym teacher firing), she’d just send out a BS email like the one she sent to us. Fortunately DS is graduating this year and DD only has one more year.

  99. DD – while it’s not an ideal situation, the students and you probably need to be more specific about what “not learning” entails. For middle school Spanish, there’s a textbook, vocabulary words, verb conjugations, maybe some simple stories to read. If the sub is working through the lesson plan, what else can you ask? Native familiarity with the language is not a requirement even for permanent teachers.

  100. Denver – in addition, maybe if you and other parents appeal to the principal and also cc the superintendent (and school committee if appropriate), you might get a better response.

  101. “Careful, if you take that stuff too seriously you wind up Mennonite.”

    RMS, ha! Actually, the denomination I grew up in was founded by Mennonites.

  102. DD was there a syllabus in place before the regular teacher got hurt? Is there a schedule for assignments/exams etc? If you can show x was supposed to be taught and the kids are doing x-y you might have a stronger argument.

  103. If only we had a way of letting Spanish speaking people into the country so they could work at DDs school. :)

    I have to agree with the poster above who said that we should base our immigration preferences on education. However, I would be happy to let the philosophy and classics students in as well. I have always found it strange and wrong that the largest chunk of legal immigrants are people who are somehow related to some other legal immigrant. Being someone’s cousin shouldn’t count for more than being well educated.

  104. If only we had a way of letting Spanish speaking people into the country so they could work at DDs school. :)

    We need Spanish speaking people who are literate in at least one language.

  105. Thanks for the replies. I agree that we need for specifics. Because of the new way they did back to school night, we didn’t get syllabi for the specific classes. The kids say they watch the videos and do learn some things, but then the sub can’t answer any of their questions or provide more explanation.

  106. If the sub is working through the lesson plan, what else can you ask? Native familiarity with the language is not a requirement even for permanent teachers.

    I can ask for the ability to teach the correct pronunciations, to be able to explain concepts when the textbook or videos aren’t clear enough.

    It’s like saying a calculus teacher doesn’t need to actually know calculus to be able to teach it. After all, there’s a textbook, online resources, etc. So as long as the teacher is working through the lesson plan, what else can you ask?

  107. Our Spanish instruction in elementary school sucked. I really don’t know how it could suck so badly, given where we live, but we went through a lot of teachers who could neither speak nor teach Spanish. The school then went to Rosetta Stone, which sucked due to technical glitches.

    In middle school, the instruction is competent and Spanish is now one of my son’s favorite classes, due to the excellent teacher.

  108. “I would hate to see birthright citizenship ended.”

    I’m with Lauren on this. The child of someone here illegally should not, IMO, automatically be a citizen any more than someone going through the motions of marrying a citizen should automatically become a citizen.

  109. I think the British Commonwealth countries have an education/age-based policy for immigration and it seems to work OK. The H1-B system definitely needs reform, too.

    Since, as Lauren’s friend observes, we can’t let in everyone who wants in at once, the question is how to make choices, which will necessarily be imperfect. It’s like my perennial conservative question, “What good things is the government NOT going to fund?”

  110. “I have always found it strange and wrong that the largest chunk of legal immigrants are people who are somehow related to some other legal immigrant. Being someone’s cousin shouldn’t count for more than being well educated.”

    I believe the rationale is that the related legal immigrant already here would sponsor the new immigrants and thus reduce the burden the new immigrants would place on government services, relative to immigrants with no sponsor.

    OTOH, this could reduce assimilation by reducing the sink or swim motivation.

  111. Houston, ours has been the opposite – the elementary school Spanish teachers were awesome and the middle school ones are pretty bad, even the one who is out. But at least they can teach the correct pronunciations and answer questions.

  112. “it’s kind of sad just how much excitement I’ve been getting out of anticipating this purchase.”

    I disagree. Why is getting joy and excitement sad?

  113. I disagree. Why is getting joy and excitement sad?

    I read an article recently about how for many people, the planning and anticipation of a vacation is more exciting than the actual vacation.

  114. I am in favor of birthright citizenship. I think the last thing we need is a population of young men who know only the U.S., but have no hope of life lived out of the shadows.

  115. DD, a couple of thoughts:

    -Get as much documentation as you can to support your case. If the original teacher created the lesson plans and assessments, then a trend of the assessments against the lesson plans might be helpful, e.g., if test and quiz scores are trending down since the original teacher left.

    -Look for other options. From what you describe, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for your principal to come up with a way to improve the situation, and in the meantime your kids’ junior and senior years are ticking away. Some options to consider would be online courses, community college, or perhaps even something like Rosetta Stone. Some options you could implement yourself, like perhaps some online courses. With others, e.g., community college, you probably need approval, but my guess is your kids will end up learning more if you can come up with another learning option to replace or complement their current class.

  116. Murphy, how is it different to come illegally to the US as a child than it is to be born to non-citizen US parents and then not to be a citizen yourself?

    My mind is willing to be changed on this, but I’m not convinced that repatriating parents and letting children stay (what Lauren’s friend talked about) would be/is good public policy. And I’m not convinced that getting to skip the immigration queue by having a baby in this country is good public policy either. Maybe my understanding of the trade-offs is wrong.

  117. Oops, DD, I did not realize your kids are in MS, so it’s their MS years that are being frittered away.

  118. “I’m not convinced that repatriating parents and letting children stay (what Lauren’s friend talked about) would be/is good public policy. ”

    I’m convinced (but still open to opposing arguments) that this would be bad public policy for very young kids.

  119. WCE, I am not sure there is much difference. I think that the first step to having a viable immigration policy is to close the borders. From where I sit, illegal immigration is both rampant and condoned. I don’t know what the laws are anymore, and it is not clear that anyone does. I know many people who do not have documents, have been picked up by INS and released with temporary work permits. When did that become the law? The situation on the ground appears to be that there are no immigration controls, and not just with Mexico. There are labor crews made up entirely of Punjabi speakers, who do not speak any English. How did they get here?

  120. I’m thinking about how my responses at work, which usually involve the difference between what is theoretically possible and what can be done, given other constraints, are like my responses to complex laws. The problem is that I don’t understand the trade-offs to particular laws, and I’m not sure anyone else does either. Too often as a country, we wind up allowing the law to be ignored when there is no money for anyone in litigating.

    Research guy: We can do xxx cool thing!
    Me: We don’t have the equipment to do yy step of xxx. Do you have the budget to outsource it?

    Manager: We can’t expense another $jjjj this quarter.
    Me: Well, if we buy it as part of $kkkkk, can we capitalize it?

  121. Perhaps the work crews of Punjabi speakers are all here legally as the family members of one legal immigrant. There are lots of legal immigrants who don’t speak English (well or at all).

    I have not heard a lot of illegal immigration success stories from the Au Pair community, which I find surprising. Many would like to, but it becomes to complicated to navigate the system without the appropriate papers – and this is a population that is acculturated, English speaking, educated/literate, etc. Hell, most of them have a valid ssn#, a bank account and driver’s license.

    Recent data suggests that the flow of Mexican citizens over the past five years has been net out of our country. While there are other undocumented people here, I doubt many are here in large numbers. I think this is a bit of a Rorschach test – you can see what policy you want in it – better national security, don’t raise the minimum wage, better funding of public health, more government, less government.

  122. There are roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. How many of those are documented in the US census (300+ million people in the U.S.) is widely disputed. But I did some research to argue with my family (who are convinced that a huge fraction of the population consists of illegal immigrants) and I’m convinced that ~4% of the population is a good number.

  123. Really liked this post, and all the comments.

    One of my main coping mechanisms is humor. Some of the crappiest situations I have been in start to seem like SNL-gone-horribly-wrong to me. I practice the retelling in my head, adding embellishment where needed. I find it very helpful, but stressful situations have always made me laugh inappropriately. Also, wine, walking, and prayer.

    We are currently 7hours into our drive across the Heartland. We should arrive by midnight, and will see my parents tomorrow. My siblings and their families each arrive tomorrow. As my parents age, I really treasure the infrequent times when we are all together. Happy Thanksgiving!!

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