Earlier this week, noting that two Democratic governors had already joined Republican governors, including Greg Abbott, in announcing their disinclination to accept Syrian refugees, I wrote that the ongoing backlash to Barack Obama’s plans was “not entirely polarized along party lines.” On Wednesday, Bloomberg Politics released a poll finding that 53 percent of Americans are opposed to accepting Syrian refugees; just 28 percent are in favor of continuing as planned. And earlier this afternoon, 47 Democrats in the United States House, including five from Texas, voted with the Republican majority in favor of more stringent new screening procedures for Syrian refugees seeking resettlement in the country.
It’s easy to understand why so many people are disappointed in the ongoing backlash. There’s no question that the vast majority of the 4.3 million Syrians displaced by the country’s ongoing civil war are innocent victims seeking to escape extraordinary carnage. One would think that a country the size of ours should have no problem screening and resettling a mere 10,000 of them. As my colleague R.G. explained Wednesday, Texas alone has managed to welcome greater numbers of refugees on many occasions, without falling into disarray. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic representative from El Paso, explained yesterday that he voted against the expanded screening procedures because the ones already in effect are sufficiently robust, in his assessment.
And the backlash to this particular subset of refugees is undeniably related to the fact that most Syrians are Muslim. Obama has sternly rebuked such arguments as “shameful,” un-American, and short-sighted. At the same time, scolding the American public for Islamophobia has apparently done little to sway public opinion in favor of the refugees. I suspect that this is in part because high-minded calls for religious tolerance have sometimes been accompanied by flat denials of any religious dimension to the events that have necessitated the lectures about religious tolerance.
The debate over the Syrian refugees will continue, and tensions will surely remain high in the immediate future—especially in Texas, thanks to Breitbart Texas’s report that eight Syrians were taken into custody on Monday, in the Laredo sector. And we’ll no doubt return to the subject soon here at BurkaBlog. For now, I’ll just refer everyone once again to Graeme Wood’s examination, from March of this year, on what ISIS actually wants—an invaluable piece of reporting that can help everyone approach the issue with more clarity.