We should not forget that this country was built by people from overseas seeking freedom from religious persecution.
From the beginning, Americans’ culture, language, political and religious beliefs have differed, even as we always shared a common humanity.
Three hundred and ninety-nine years later this country is making it harder for those fleeing intolerable situations to find shelter in America.
The federal government is setting a ceiling to allow only 18,000 refugees in 2020. The number has been dropping, from 45,000 in 2018 to 30,000 this year. The massive decrease next year is an effrontery to our core values.
We see no acceptable reason to so severely restrict refugees. There is no less conflict around the world. As it is, it takes several years for refugees to go through security clearance to enter our country, often requiring stays in refugee camps for families and children.
Connecticut has been welcoming. More than 1,200 have been resettled in 50 communities across the state through the New Haven-based nonprofit Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, which works with homegrown local groups and churches.
We are pleased that Gov. Ned Lamont reaffirmed the state’s commitment last week in an unflinching letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“It is a bedrock principle of the United States of America that we welcome to our shores those fleeing tyranny, persecution and violence,” Lamont wrote in his Dec. 11 letter.
“We know from our own experience here in Connecticut that refugees enrich the communities that offer them shelter — socially, culturally and economically,” Lamont told Pompeo. “We have the capacity, the will and the desire to continue welcoming those fleeing persecution and violence to our state.”
On the right side of history, Connecticut’s commitment was made manifest four years ago when then-Gov. Dannel Malloy welcomed a Syrian family fleeing war after then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence turned them away. The couple and their 5-year-old son had waited three years for permission to come to the United States.
An impetus for Lamont’s letter was an executive order that limits the State Department from placing refugees without the consent of state and local officials. The order is being challenged in court.
The mayors of New Haven, Hartford and West Hartford have written letters to the State Department affirming their consent to resettle refugees.
We call on the leaders of the other 166 cities and towns in the state to do the same. But first, communities could have dialogues about exactly what it means to welcome refugees. Concerns about cost or other aspects could be addressed. (Most of the resettlement expenses are covered with donations through nonprofits.)
Communities should come together and with a show of strength and declare that all of Connecticut welcomes refugees. It is part of our history, it is central to our values and our common humanity.