Utah Shows the Way on Welcoming Refugees
While New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently took steps to pull New Jersey out of the U.S. resettlement program, many other Americans are welcoming refugees. Utah is a prime example. A tech company, a quilt-making business, and a non-profit helping refugees earn college degrees have recently been highlighted in the media, including in a Wall Street Journal article on Utah’s welcoming stance towards refugees.
Unlike some other Republican governors who, like Chris Christie, have objected to resettling refugees in their states, Utah Governor Gary Herbert has actively spoken up on behalf of refugees. He told NPR a few weeks ago:
“We have a history as a state that was founded because of exiled Mormons who were kicked out of other parts of the country and actually had one state put out what was called an exterminate order. You could kill Mormons just like you could kill deer. We even had a president, Rutherford B. Hayes, who said to Europe, please do not let any more Mormons migrate to America. So we have a history of knowing a little bit what that is like to be discriminated against because of your religion. And when people come to Utah, we welcome them.”
The faith community in Utah has also warmly welcomed refugees. In addition to the engagement of Catholic Community Services in resettlement, the leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has called on its members to welcome and to help refugees.
Earlier this month I had the privilege of speaking at the LDS International Society’s annual conference held at Brigham Young University, titled “World Refugee Crisis and the Humane Response.” It was inspiring to be among a group of dedicated Americans who were so interested in helping to address the plight of the world’s refugees.
Human Rights First recently issued a report which details how U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees is both a humanitarian and national security imperative, calling on the United States to provide leadership in addressing the crisis. Leading national security experts—including former national security advisors, CIA directors, secretaries of state, defense, and homeland security—who served under both democratic and republican administrations confirmed in a letter to Congress that refugees are vetted more rigorously than any other travelers to the United States and that their resettlement advances U.S. national security interests.
Chris Christie and his colleagues should take a cue from Utah and stop playing politics with refugees’ lives and follow the example of Americans who are welcoming the persecuted.