Our political leaders in Kansas should welcome refugees who helped our soldiers instead of exploiting hate
As the Taliban reclaimed control of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of Afghans who aided the United States and fought alongside U.S. soldiers over 20 years tried to flee the country.
They feared for their lives and the lives of their wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, parents and children.
Some Americans, including many veterans, are still trying to help our Afghan allies escape the avowed revenge of the Taliban.
Other Americans, including some Kansas politicians, are fighting those efforts.
They oppose allowing refugees into the United States, claiming they could bring disease. They also claim they are a terrorism threat because the vetting process is insufficient. Simply put, they claim that the fates of those targeted by the Taliban for torture, death and prison aren't our problem.
It’s an argument that should be refuted by Americans who think our national ideals are more than political slogans.
The claim Afghan refugees can’t be trusted to become our neighbors and our co-workers is especially gross. The politicians who promote this slander pretend their opposition is about U.S. security. In reality, it’s another phase of anti-immigrant bigotry that at times in our history has targeted Irish, Catholics, Jews, Hispanics, Chinese and others.
Of course, terrorism is a concern. But the record makes clear that immigrants in Kansas are much more likely to be the target of terrorists than the perpetrators.
Take the case of Adam Purinton, a Kansan who shot two immigrants in 2017 because he didn’t think they belonged in America. One of the two, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an employee of Garmin International in Johnson County, died. A third man was injured when he attempted to stop Purinton.
Or take the cases of Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, three Kansans who planned in 2016 to murder scores of Somali refugees in Finney County because they weren’t U.S.-born whites like Wright, Allen and Stein.
Certainly, no one suggests immigrants are the only targets or that white supremacists have a monopoly on terrorism.
Kansas also produced Terry Loewen, a Wichita resident who plotted in 2013 to blow up part of the Wichita airport in support of Islamic terrorists.
Or consider John T. Booker, a Topeka man and ISIS supporter who pleaded guilty in 2016 to planning to kill soldiers at Fort Riley.
And let’s not forget Terry Nichols, the anti-government terrorist who helped plan and build the truck bomb that killed 168 people in Oklahoma City in 1995.
On Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, former President George W. Bush participated in a memorial service in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. He said in part:
“…(We) have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.”
Instead, many of today’s political leaders encourage them.
As a state and nation, we should thank and welcome refugees whose aid and work were essential to U.S. soldiers over 20 years. They deserve the opportunities America affords.
Those who exploit hate and fear to keep them out are the real threats to American greatness.
Julie Doll, now of Tucson, Arizona, is a native Kansan and former newspaper reporter and editor.