TIME world affairs

Madeleine Albright: ISIS Wants Us to Think Refugees Are the Enemy

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright participates in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., on January 29, 2015.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright participates in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., on January 29, 2015.

Madeleine Albright is a former U.S. Secretary of State.

The U.S. must do its part to alleviate the crisis

I am deeply disturbed by the calls to shut our nation’s doors to properly vetted Syrian refugees fleeing terrorism and persecution in their native land. These proposals are motivated by fear, not by the facts, and they fly in the face of our country’s proud tradition of admitting refugees from every corner of the globe and every faith background. We have always been a generous nation, and we have in place a rigorous process for refugee resettlement that balances our generosity with our need for security. It works, and it should not be stopped or paused.

This issue is personal to me, because it was 67 years ago last week that my family and I arrived in the U.S. to begin a new life in exile from our native Czechoslovakia. I will always feel an immense gratitude to this country, one shared by the millions of other refugees who have come to our shores in the years since—including Eastern European Jews, Hungarians, Vietnamese, Somalis, Cubans and Bosnian Muslims.

Today, the Syrian people are in the same position once occupied by these other groups. Their country is being destroyed by despotic leaders and terrorists, and the international community has failed them. They do not want to leave their country, but they have no choice. And while our focus should remain on supporting humanitarian efforts in the region, achieving a political settlement in Syria, and defeating the scourge of ISIS, the U.S. must do its part to alleviate the crisis by resettling some Syrian refugees. If we do otherwise, we will squander our moral authority and hurt our international credibility.

Our enemies have a plan. They want to divide the world between Muslims and non-Muslims, and between the defenders and attackers of Islam. By making Syrian refugees the enemy, we are playing into their hands. Instead, we need to clarify that the real choice is between those who think it is OK to murder innocent people and those who think it is wrong. By showing that we value every human life, we can make clear to the world where we stand.

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