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Monday, April 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Editorial: Blocking refugees because of Paris attack wrong

First, a word of “fraternité” with the French people — victims, families, neighbors — recovering from a second brutal assault in their capital within the last 11 months.

As President Obama noted, the French were our first allies, and France and the United States have fought side-by-side repeatedly in the last century. There’s no question we should do all we can to assist with their recovery, and their pursuit of those who instigated and supported the attack.

There is no room for ISIS on this planet.

But our counterterrorism strategy should not include the slamming of doors to all Syrian refugees coming into the U.S. A single Syrian passport found near one of the Paris attackers has mostly Republican governors vowing to block the relocation of more Syrians to their states.

In fact, they are powerless to restrict the movement of any refugee who clears a background check, as Idaho Gov. Butch Otter conceded in a letter he sent to the White House Monday.

His letter also made explicit the connection Republicans intend to make between their overall anti-immigration policies and terrorism. He would close U.S. borders not only to Syrian refugees, he wants the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program stopped.

Sadly, the members of Idaho’s congressional delegation lined up behind him. And new House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling for a “pause” on the processing of Syrian refugees.

The president has rightly said retaliation against refugees is unbecoming of the U.S. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has sided with the president, warning against “equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”

But that’s where Republicans are headed.

It was reassuring to read in colleague Betsy Russell’s blog that while the elected officials were grandstanding, Jan Reeves, director of Idaho’s refugee office, was meeting with refugee supporters and explaining the 14-step, yearlong-plus process refugees must go through before they are admitted to the U.S.

Also reassuring is the recollection that 12 Idaho jurors acquitted Saudi student Sami Al-Hussayen of terrorism charges in 2004 despite the hysteria that followed 9/11. That was a proud moment for Idaho and American justice.

Unfortunately, the worst among Idaho’s xenophobes is calling for a special session of the Legislature that would do nothing but provide a platform for further anti-immigrant rants.

Otter should turn a deaf ear. He might want to lend it instead to Reeves. In fact, he should ask Reeves to brief the Legislature.

Oh, and that single passport that triggered the anti-refugee fear-mongering? Tuesday, Serbian authorities found another passport apparently identical to the one found near the Paris terrorist in every way except for the photograph. That would make one, or both, forgeries, as could who knows how many others that are circulating.

Sadly, in neither his letter to the president or the press release from his office did Otter offer a word of commiseration for the French. That’s a shame.

To respond to this editorial online, go to and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.

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