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Thanksgiving is approaching. Children across America are filing into their school auditoriums to hear about a feast celebrated to say thank you to native Wampanoag residents who saved the lives of Pilgrim settlers by giving them food, teaching them to catch eel, and showing them how to grow corn. Welcoming them.

And more than half of the governors of the United States are carrying on this wonderful tradition by…barring Syrian refugees from settling in their states. These fine examples of American values are ignoring a few little things we on planet Earth refer to as facts:

  • They have no legal right to refuse admission to refugees.
  • A refugee is a legal status that’s darn hard to obtain. Basically, refugee-applicants need to provide proof that their lives are in danger, usually that they’ve been tortured, that family members were murdered. The process takes months (often years), involves mountains of paperwork, doctor and witness statements, and innumerable interviews. It’s a long, arduous process that very few would slog through if they had any other options.
  • And, hey—the Paris attackers were all EU nationals. The only Syrian passport found so far appears to have been a fake.

I love Paris. I love walking along the Seine and watching the sun come up over Notre Dame. I love Berthillon ice cream and incredible bread fresh from the oven and a treasure around every corner. Now Paris has been cut, and the world is bleeding.

But that does NOT mean we need to give up what it means to be Americans. We have a Lady welcoming all to our shores. She rose from pennies raised by French and American school children, and she raises a lamp against the darkness. She says welcome. She says that’s who we are.

Statue of Liberty at night [image credit: Guide TravelTourism http://guidetraveltourism.com/?attachment_id=2846]

Statue of Liberty at night
[image credit: Guide TravelTourism]

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

–Emma Lazarus, 1883

Are we really ready to turn off her lamp?