The governors of 26 U.S. states signaled yesterday that they will not be willing to take in any Syrian refugees, following the lead of Michigan and Alabama, which announced similar objections this past Sunday. Governor Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire became the first Democrat to voice opposition to President Obama’s plan to accept 10,000 refugees from the war in Syria in the next year. Governors of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, and Connecticut, on the other hand, came out in explicit support of the initiative.
Goodhearted liberals have reacted with handwringing to the avalanche of dissenting governors. Some have earnestly quoted relevant Bible verses about taking in the poor and the afflicted, while the usual righteous tut-tutters have engaged in their usual righteous tut-tutting. “Everybody who disagrees with my proposal is a bitter-clinging xenophobe, not to mention a racist,” is the clear implication of the President’s supporters. That there are racist xenophobes in this country is clear to anybody who has ever perused the comments section of an internet news site, or has spent too much time on Facebook and Twitter. And many of these people are spewing ugly hate about Syrian refugees in ways that appall — or should appall — anybody with an open mind and a humane spirit. That said, the refugee issue is not, despite President Obama’s rhetoric, a simple morality play featuring Wise Liberals and Racist Jacksonians. It is something more complicated and, at least as far as President Obama’s own role in the debate, a bit uglier.