Editorial: Where should refugees go?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015

At last count Monday evening, roughly half the nation’s governors — nearly all Republicans — were trying to make sure none of the 10,000 Syrian refugees President Obama has OK’d can settle in their states.

That includes North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory.

“North Carolina has a proud tradition of providing a hand-up for those in need, including international refugees,” McCrory said. “However, because President Obama has increased the number of refugees from Syria coming into the United States from 2,000 to 10,000 and because of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the very real possibility that one of the terrorists entered France as a recent refugee, I am requesting that the federal government cease sending refugees from Syria to North Carolina.”

It’s not clear governors have the power to block the refugees; perhaps that’s why McCrory framed the issue as a request. Experts say states do not get to override the federal government on matters such as foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation.

One of the assailants in the Paris bombings had a fake Syrian passport, a fact that has made all of Europe and the United States even more leery of Syrian refugees than they already were.

“My primary duty as governor is to keep the citizens of North Carolina safe,” McCrory said.

Even if there’s no Trojan Horse to fear with this wave of refugees, they could face such difficulty assimilating into a different culture that they become disaffected and, eventually, radicalized. Can you say Tsarnaev, as in the Boston Marathon bombers?

This is not just an American dilemma. Europe is struggling even more with large-scale resettlement. One defender of resettlement, Daniel Byman, a professor of security studies at Georgetown, has warned that “the true terrorism danger is that the refugees are not cared for or are welcomed briefly in a fit of sympathy and then scorned and repressed.”

Europe already has a large population of radicalized Muslims, and the United States may have more than we can imagine.

The governors’ efforts to bar the Syrians is just one step on the road to understanding the refugees’ plight. They fled a repressive regime only to be accused of being part of it. If no one welcomes them, then what?

No state or nation wants to unwittingly admit terrorists, and we should use every method of screening to prevent that from happening. But we should recognize that the risk of people becoming radicalized within our own borders is just as great — or greater.