California Gov. Jerry Brown said on Monday that he would continue to welcome vetted Syrian refugees into the state as part of President Barack Obama’s plan.
In September, Obama’s administration said it would accept 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next 10 months. In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on Paris, 26 state governors have said they will refuse to accept Syrian refugees into their state, with many citing concern because one of the Paris attackers was posing as a refugee. Brown’s plan calls for a “sophisticated and utterly reliable” assessment process to accept refugees, as stated by Brown in a press release. According to the California Office of Refugee Resettlement, California accepted more refugees in 2014 than any other state.
According to a press release from her office, California Senator Diane Feinstein said although the Paris attacks have increased people’s desire for security, the U.S. needs to find a way to provide shelter for refugees.
“In light of the Paris attacks, keeping our borders secure from ISIL terrorists must be our number one priority,” Feinstein said. “At the same time, we can’t completely abandon innocent Syrian civilians in need. America must do its share to find safe haven for the millions of children and adults who have none at present time.”
Third-year communication major Erika Peralta said because of the state’s size, she hopes California will accept refugees who could integrate into American society.
“California is a big state and we have a lot of people, but at the same time we’re helping these people,” Peralta said. “Maybe one day they’ll be able to have access to the opportunities that we have already.”
But Peralta also said she is worried that by inviting Syrian refugees, the United States could open itself to threats.
“I think they do need help, but at the same time, after what happened in Paris, you never know what can happen nowadays,” Peralta said. “They are escaping from a place that they can’t call home anymore, so it’s a really tough one.”
UCSB professor of political science Narayani Lasala-Blanco said refugees’ success depends very much on the resources “receiving societies” make available to them.
“What I’ve seen is that two people coming from the same country, same religion and identical in every way develop in very different ways contingent on the place they arrive to,” Lasala-Blanco said. “I support it if there will also be the material resources to help them integrate successfully.”
Feinstein said she hopes politicians will grow more sympathetic towards refugees.
“Come winter, to see children freezing in the snow — I don’t think that’s what the western world wants either,” Feinstein said. “So I would hope governors would be very slow to make these statements.”
Geography PhD candidate Cascade Tuholske said the refugees would further diversify the U.S., making the country “stronger.”
“I think assuming that allowing refugees who request asylum under refugee status coming to the United States — that’s probably a good thing because we’re a multicultural society,” Tuholske said. “The more diversity we have in the United States, I think, the stronger we are as a country.”
Tuholske said he thinks politicians should consider the conflict causing Syrians to refugees flee their home country.
“I think it’s not so much of what I fear from refugees coming or not coming, I think it’s the fact that politicians refuse to look at actually what is causing the refugee crisis in the first place,” Tuholske said.
Tuholske said Syria refugees would not be seeking help if circumstances were not so dire.
“Syrians in the first place probably don’t want to leave their homes, so if they didn’t have reason to leave, it probably wouldn’t exist,” Tuholske said.
Lasala-Blanco said refugees should undergo “reliable” screening, but she believes most have “no connection or desire” to engage in violence.
“They just want to get on with their lives. Its very sad for them that they can’t do that in their own country, so I think the more vetting, the better for everyone,” Lasala-Blanco said.
Religious studies PhD candidate Caleb McCarthy said he does not think that extensive vetting is necessary and refugees are not a threat to California.
“Obviously, there is some need to be aware of the fact that, hypothetically, people can sneak in through these processes, but … I think most of the refuges are women and children,” McCarthy said. “The reality is that there really isn’t that much of a threat of terrorism coming through these channels.”
McCarthy also said the U.S. should accept Syrian refugees because it is responsible in part for creating a situation of conflict in the Middle East.
“It is good for both our foreign policy and interest to be concerned about the region in general and the future of these refugees, considering our involvement in facilitating the development of that situation in the Middle East,” McCarthy said. “We have some need to consider how our role in the region has facilitated and created the situation as it stands.”
Lasala-Blanco said the U.S. has a history of accepting and integrating refugees and it should continue to do so.
“I think the U.S. has a lot of experience and has very successfully integrated refugees from all over the world, so I think that, especially in California, it’s a good idea to do this,” Lasala-Blanco said. “I think if everyone is ready to chip in a little, it will be a great thing.”
A version of this story appeared on page 4 of the Thursday, November 19, 2015 print edition of the Daily Nexus.