Posted today via USPS. I do not expect a reply from the governor, but your comments are welcomed.
I am writing to you today about your public request that the federal government not send Syrian refugees to Maryland in the interests of safety. I want you to understand that your request itself makes me feel less safe.
My great grandparents on my mothers side are what we today would call ‘economic refugees’. They were Jews who came to this great country in search of a better life. They came to Ellis Island, and my grandmother grew up in New York City, surrounded by other Jewish immigrants. They were not ‘safe’ people. My grandmother used to tell stories of her childhood. There was a particular member of a Jewish gang who used to make it very clear to her that if anyone bothered her or her parents, she should go to him. He did not make her feel safe either.
So I acknowledge that people fleeing harsh regimes and coming to our country will include trouble makers, and even criminals. That’s not the point.
The point is that I’ve spent my entire life in Maryland, as has my husband. We live in one of the most diverse school districts in Howard County. The elementary school where our children went had children who had been born in countries all over the world. Children whose parents spoke over a hundred different languages, and who came from at least forty different countries. I have never been afraid of these children, or their families. They are a vital, and celebrated, part of our community.
Please bear in mind that, while it is possible that some of the terrorists who took part of that horrible attack on Paris, it is known that many of them were French citizens. Citizens so alienated from their own country that they did this hateful thing.
Today as I was walking past the high school my children attended, I saw a young woman wearing a headscarf, t-shirt and bluejeans. I couldn’t claim to know her precise ethnicity, but she is presumably of middle eastern origin. She was in a group of peers, all laughing and being comfortable together. Her friends clearly don’t fear her, nor she them. I wonder if she has any brothers, the high school years are such a vulnerable age for boys. I wonder if her parents are as comfortable with American culture. I wonder where her extended family is, and whether they might some day reach out to this girls parents for a safe haven. I wonder if the parents will be forced to turn them away.
Governor Hogan, this is why your ‘request’ makes me feel unsafe. It is a message to muslim immigrants that they are not wanted. It also feeds into the “Great Satan” propaganda of islamic extremists. They say that America makes war on Islam. When you say you deny refugees entry to our state, it feels as though you are feeding hatred, both the hatred of the jihadists abroad, who will take any excuse to hate America more, and the hatred of bigots at home, who feel that anyone with brown skin is inherently unclean and unsafe.
Remember how, after 9/11, we all said that if we let the terrorists force us to change the way we live, then we let them win? I feel as though you’ve just told them that, in Maryland, they’ve won.
Please rethink your position, and take a stand for principle and courage. Let Maryland take as many refugees as we can, and let them know that, once they make it here, they’re home.
Also, I’ve heard that politicians are swayed by numbers more than eloquence. Even if you’re not confident in your ability to be convincing, please write anyone who represents you who has been making similar pronouncements.