The Story of Christmas


December 3, 2015

Christmas refugees
With the holiday season upon us and the majority of the nation looking forward to celebrating Christmas, Congress still has some business it must take care of before they can go home to family, friends and fundraisers. In a little over a week the government will run out of funding and, unless action is taken, it will be forced to shut down. As always, key final decisions are being negotiated at the last minute and, as we noted in yesterday’s blog post, certain members are hoping to supply their own early Christmas gifts by attaching extraneous policy riders to the FY16 omnibus spending package. One big concern is a move approved by the House Republican leadership to add a rider to the omnibus package to limit or stop the modest flow of refugees from Syria and Iraq into the United States.

While almost all the members of Congress are eager to celebrate Christmas, there seem to be many who have forgotten some of the more relevant details of the holiday’s story. The birth of Jesus is the story of a family forced to travel away from its home to the town of Bethlehem where they had trouble finding shelter. It would be cruel irony if so many of our leaders decided to celebrate this holiday while actively trying to hinder families who simply want what Mary and Joseph wanted: a safe place to find shelter for their family.

Those that aim to curtail the number of refugees, like those Representatives who voted for the anti-refugee bill the House passed in November, do so under the guise of the need for safety, but there are safeguards in place. To gain entry into the United States as a refugee, a person must go through a very lengthy and thorough review process in which his or her background is examined. We need security and to ensure that terrorists do not slip into our country, but it would be a betrayal of all that we stand for to not help those in need. Refugees share our distain of radicals and terrorists; they know the fear of those they run from a lot more personally than we do. It’s why they are leaving their homes and lives behind and traveling thousands of miles to come to a new country. A great many are parents with young children trying to recover from awful violence. Some of them have even worked with our armed forces in Iraq and now need to flee to the United States to escape retribution. These are people in need of our help, and we should offer it.

At risk is our standing in the world. We claim to be the leaders of the free world; we ask our allies to have our backs when we take action. Now, when our NATO allies are stepping up to take in a far larger share of refugees than our commitment, we must do our part. The world takes notice when France, the recent victim of a terrible attack, announces that it will find the terrorists and bring them to justice while also pledging to take in 30,000 refugees over the next two years. We should be seeking that same kind of balance: unflinching resolve to bring terrorists to justice combined with humanitarian leadership to help the victims of terrorist violence rebuild their lives. Instead, those who would use the omnibus to bar the door to Syrian and Iraqi refugees are playing to fear, and distracting us from the real work of making us as secure as possible.

From the pilgrims who first came to Plymouth Rock to the Vietnamese who fled with us as we withdrew from Saigon, our nation has always been a destination for those who seek freedom from persecution and violence. It is this cherished heritage that wins us allies around the world.

The omnibus must be passed, to allow at least some of the investments our nation needs. Irresponsible poison pill riders hurt us by inflicting bad policy and by preventing the enactment of the omnibus. Time is running out – members of Congress should reject extraneous riders that slam the door on those people most in need of our help.

Tell your members of Congress to pass a clean spending bill without harmful riders by sending them an email, tweeting at them, and writing on their Facebook pages. Just click here, then share this alert via Facebook and Twitter.

[Photo credit: Malavoda via Flickr]

Budget and Appropriations
humanitarian crisis