Last Friday night, teams of armed suicide bombers took to the streets of Paris to wreak bloody and unimaginable havoc. In military parlance, their targets were “soft”—a soccer stadium, a concert hall, a sidewalk café—and their victims intentionally indiscriminate. In the end, 129 innocent souls were taken before their time, as the world watched in shock, and then in mourning.
But as the events of the attack unfolded, it told not a tale of fear and carnage, but of hope. We learned of the extraordinary acts of courage, selflessness, and solidarity of Parisians willing to open their homes and risk their lives to protect those fleeing abominable acts of terror. The now-infamous hashtag #porteouverte promised shelter and safe haven for those unable to make it to the safety of their homes. Taxi drivers turned off their meters and ferried people away from the butchery, then returned for more. And hundreds of those waiting out the attack at the Stade de France broke into an inspiring and impromptu rendition of La Marseillaise.
When we remember Paris, we should not be haunted by the specters of the bloodthirsty and maniacal men who wrought this unspeakable deed. What we should remember are the heroes, the ordinary Parisians who became their best selves in order to help their fellow men in a time of high crisis. We have lessons to learn from such brave men and women.
Sadly, these are lessons that appear to be lost on Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who announced in a letter Monday that his administration would refuse to accept any Syrian refugees “in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack in Paris.” Two dozen other governors swiftly followed suit—but not to be outdone, the following day Abbott doubled down: Not only would Texas turn away Syrian refugees, but it would also interrogate all the Syrian refugees who have already been resettled here to ensure they are not a security risk.
Such pronouncements run counter to our laws, our values, and our conscience. First, the federal government has uncontested authority over refugee resettlement, and refugee admissions are set by the President specifically, so Texas’s refusal to accept refugees is a dead letter. Second, you can’t expect to be taken seriously when you affirm your “Judeo-Christian principles” in the same breath that you vow not to live by them. And finally—and most importantly—the refugees we are talking about are risking their lives and their children’s lives to escape a fate far worse than drowning at sea. Even the 10,000 we have agreed to welcome—which constitutes about one quarter of one percent of the total number of Syrian refugees—isn’t enough.
However, what looks like state-sponsored cowardice on the part of the Abbott administration is merely more of the same thinly veiled xenophobia that he has exercised throughout Texas since he came into office. Governor Abbott has already secured $800 million from the Texas legislature to block passage to women and children fleeing terrible violence in Central America. He has cynically attempted to have private prisons holding those same women and children designated as “licensed child care facilities” in order to circumvent a federal court order. Any pretense of public safety is exactly that—a pretense.
In spite of all appearances, the goal of the Paris attacks was not to disseminate terror. It was to use the dissemination of terror to force Western countries to despise their own Muslim citizens and drive them into the arms of the enemy. ISIS is very explicit about this.
Governor Abbott’s reaction is exactly and precisely what they want.
Sadly, he’s taken the bait.