Since the November 13 Paris attacks, Western politicians and public figures have subjected the world to an overwhelming deluge of bigoted comments about refugees. Amidst the din of fear and xenophobia, some leaders have railed against these racist responses to the attacks, refused to play politics, and otherwise resisted the impulse to succumb to the worst human emotions.
So far, the anti-refugee camp has received most of the air time – from Donald Trump’s suggestion, inspired it seems by the Third Reich, that Muslims in America carry special identification to the 289 members of the U.S. House of Representatives (including forty-seven Democrats) who voted in favor of a bill effectively baring Iraqi and Syrian refugees from entering the country.
It is high time we turn a spotlight on those who are speaking against these reactionary and racist policies – to tweet and share their messages of inclusivity and empathy with one another – to give them (and not those who have chosen to climb the political ladder by standing on top of a mound of human bodies) our precious time and attention.
In no particular order, here’s our list of those Western politicians who have spoke out in defense of refugees.
1. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
On November 17, Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke on the Senate floor about her experience visiting with refugees in Lesvos, Greece last month, and called on U.S. lawmakers not to close America’s doors to this at-risk and desperate population.
2. U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders (D-NH)
Just watch the video 🙂
Bernie Sanders Shows Republicans How to Respond to the Paris A…This is REAL leadership.Video by Occupy Democrats, SHARE if you agree!
Posted by Occupy Democrats on Tuesday, November 17, 2015
3. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Almost immediately after taking office, Canada’s new prime minister broke with the policies of the previous government and vowed to bring 25,000 refugees to Canada by January 1, 2016. After the Paris attacks, Trudeau reaffirmed his commitment to this plan. As reported by the National Post, Trudeau’s comments came in the wake of concerns expressed by provincial and municipal leaders about the resettlement plan following events in Paris.
4. The Chicago City Council
On November 18, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution establishing the city as a safe haven for refugees. According to a local news network, WGNtv, the “move is in response to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s call to withhold aid for refugees in Illinois until the Paris investigation is complete.”
5. St. Paul City Council
The city council for St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota, also affirmed its commitment to accepting refugees, in a public statement released on November 18 and reprinted by TwinCities:
Supporting the state of Minnesota and the United States of America accepting and welcoming immigrants and refugees, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or country of origin. Whereas immigrants and indigenous people helped build the city of St. Paul, and whereas current and past generations of immigrants, including refugees, have helped make St. Paul a great city, and whereas the city of St. Paul will continue to be a great city by welcoming properly vetted immigrants and refugees from all over the world. And whereas current international turmoil has caused multiple refugee crises; therefore, be it resolved that the city of St. Paul supports the state of Minnesota and the United States of America accepting and welcoming immigrants and refugees, when properly vetted, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or country of origin.
6. Florida Mayor, Andrew Gillum
The mayor of Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, has expressed support for refugees on behalf of his city, rebuking statements by Florida Governor, Rick Scott, refusing to allow refugees into the state. In a statement published on the website of a local news network, Gillum said:
As mayor, I pledge my continued support for providing the care and refuge needed by those escaping violence and persecution. My prayers are with the people of France, and the nations around the world, who are facing this series of cowardly attacks. When we turn against each other as neighbors and global citizens, the terrorists win.
7. New York City Mayor, Bill De Blasio
Mayor De Blasio has said New York will remain open and welcoming toward refugees, and has criticized the governor of neighboring New Jersey, Chris Christie, for trying to shut the doors of his state to people fleeing from war and violence. According to NBC, De Blasio “called New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ‘an embarrassment to this country’ and said that the city ‘will adhere to the words of our Founding Fathers, not Donald Trump.'”
8. French President, Francois Hollande
Did your jaw just drop? Well, on November 18, five days after the Paris attacks, President Hollande re-affirmed France’s pre-existing commitment to accept 30,000 refugees in the next two years. While the numbers are fairly paltry and the expectations of politicians, right now, embarrassingly low, Hollande’s decision not to back track on France’s promise is important. At least rhetorically, the president could have refused to abide by France’s EU-mandated refugee quota – after the Paris attacks, the governments of Poland and Hungary took steps to challenge the EU refugee quota system. That Hollande did not is a small victory, but one that ought to be celebrated.
9. U.S. President Barack Obama
Whatever you think of Obama’s general policy toward refugees or his policy in the Middle East, he has, at the very least, spoken out against the rhetoric of exclusion and hatred peddled by various American politicians toward refugees:
10. U.S. Congressman Mark Takano
Japanese-American U.S. Congressman, Mark Takano (D-CA), has warned American lawmakers against repeating the mistakes of history. Seventy-years ago, during World War II, his grandparents and parents were interned in camps simply because of there Japanese heritage. In a statement made on his Facebook page, Takano said “[t]he families fleeing the violence in Syria are victims and deserve better treatment than my parents received.”
11. Washington Governor, Jay Inslee
Washington State’s Democratic Governor, Jay Inslee, published an op-ed in The New York Times on November 20 vowing to keep Washington’s borders open to refugees:
I told Washingtonians that I wouldn’t join those who wanted to demonize people because of the country they flee or the religion they practice. I will uphold our reputation as a place that embraces compassion and equality and eschews fear-mongering. Like many states, we have long kept an open door for people fleeing violence and repression. In 1975, Daniel J. Evans, a Republican governor, welcomed Vietnamese refugees to our state, even as other states turned their backs, along the lines of what we hear today about Syrians. Governor Evans’s initial invitation to accept 500 of these refugees became the basis for a successful resettlement program that continues to this day, helping those fleeing war and persecution rebuild their lives. Today, nearly 70,000 Vietnamese-Americans live in Washington, and they have added to our quality of life in countless ways. Today we welcome refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. In 2014, more than 2,800 refugees from countless countries arrived in Washington, and no one demanded we send them back to where they came from. Similar stories can be told about other states, some of which were, until recently, warm and opening to Syrian refugees. That’s why it is disheartening to see how easily people turn their backs on human suffering — even more so when the ones turning their backs are those who were chosen to lead.
12. U.S. Congressman Seth Moulton
Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) didn’t take too kindly to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s anti-refugee statements after the Paris attacks. As reported by the Daily Beast, Charlie Baker said, “No, I am not interested in accepting refugees from Syria. I would need to know a lot more than I know now to agree to do anything.” Moulten, who is a decorated veteran of the second Iraq War and has opened his home to an Iraqi refugee, had this reaction to Baker’s comments:
It’s a shame that Governor Baker doesn’t know the difference between refugees and those from whom they need refuge. — Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) November 16, 2015
“Refugee resettlement is the least likely route for potential terrorists.” Yearning to Breathe Free https://t.co/5qu0fcoNEw
— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) November 17, 2015
He also tweeted this image with the Iraqi refugee (and friend) who he has welcomed into his home:
— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) November 19, 2015
13. U.S. Congressman Ruben Gallego
U.S. Congressman and war veteran, Ruben Galego (D-AZ), issued this statement in the midst of the rampant anti-refugee and Islamophobic statements being made by other politicians:
Washington, DC – In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, there has been an uptick in anti-refugee sentiment, and some Republicans have even proposed that the United States end refugee resettlement altogether.
Congressman Ruben Gallego issued the following statement:
“We have a moral responsibility to help those escaping violence and torture in their home countries, while also taking steps to ensure the protection of the American people.
“Refugees who come to the United States are subject to the highest level of security screening before they are ever allowed to enter the country. The U.S. government takes this screening very seriously, and the system has been significantly enhanced in recent years.
“I am also alarmed by the hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric coming from some in the Republican Party. Refugees come to the United States fleeing the same type of senseless violence that occurred in Paris. The vast majority of ISIS’s victims have been Muslim, and most Syrian refugees are families with children. ISIS is a terrorist organization and does not represent the beliefs of the Muslim religion.
“Allowing ISIS to stoke fear and anti-Muslim sentiment is counter to our American values found on the Statue of Liberty. We should not let fear caused by terrorism overcome our sense of morality.
“I support the Obama Administration in its commitment to resettle refugees fleeing violence in a safe manner, consistent with our national security.”
14. U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth
U.S. Congresswoman, Tammy Duckworth (D-Il), the first disabled female veteran to take a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has come out in support of admitting refugees to the United States. In addition to publishing an op-ed in The Chicago Tribune, calling for a rejection of fear-mongering against refugees, she spoke with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow about the backlash against Syrian refugees: