This week’s question: Do you think the U.S. and Florida in particular should accept more Syrian refugees? Or is the risk too great?
Yes. I hate that it’s become a political question. The pope spoke on this very issue while here in the U.S.A. to great fanfare. Now let’s put those values into practice.
Brian Brackeen, CEO, Kairos
The U.S. has always been a nation of immigrants. In recent decades, South Florida has welcomed newcomers from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and dozens of other countries around the world, including the Middle East. We should remain a “beacon of hope” for refugees of all countries and religious faiths as long as they are entering the U.S. via a legal immigration process.
Carol Brooks, president and co-founder, CREC (Continental Real Estate Companies)
It is perplexing to imagine that a country built on centuries of immigration — from the Pilgrims, to Italians, Germans and Irish, and in South Florida from the Caribbean and Latin and South America, would now decide to close or restrict its borders to one specific group of refugees looking for the same opportunities so many others also sought and achieved. Certainly the safety of this country is paramount; but I believe that we have the capacity to develop a fair and humane process to allow these refugees to enjoy the safety and opportunity they seek.
Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, president, St. Thomas University
The United States is the land of the free and the brave. As an immigrant myself — I arrived as a child with my parents — I believe this is the country that would have the most ability to absorb foreign nationals. However, there need to be checks and balances and very tight controls to make sure all who wish to come across our borders are evaluated to ensure there is no malice or intent to harm as they come into our amazing United States.
Nabil El Sanadi, CEO/president, Broward Health
We need to find the right balance between global humanitarian interests and homeland security, but I don’t have a clear opinion on this issue just yet.
Robert Hill, general manager, InterContinental Miami
I do believe that we should accept Syrian refugees, or refugees of any nationality that are displaced due to political distresses and chaos in their home countries. I myself am a Cuban immigrant, who is extremely grateful that my family was allowed to start a new life in the United States. The fact that the U.S. has been so welcoming and compassionate to refugees in the past is one of the best things about this country. That being said, we cannot be blind to what’s going on right now in the world. We do need a stricter screening process to be implemented to ensure that terrorists are not infiltrating our country disguised as refugees.
Miriam Lopez, president/chief lending officer, Marquis Bank
The risk is great because we risk losing our humanity if we do not help. Miami has built its greatness on the shoulders of the immigrant population. To see people suffering and turn our backs goes against every principle this community and this nation were founded on. We should be the first standing up to help. At the same time, we have a responsibility to keep our homeland safe. Prudent measures need to be in place that provide for appropriate screening and safety measures, while also providing a refuge for people in crisis.
Harve A. Mogul, president and CEO, United Way of Miami-Dade
I am hopeful as a U.S. citizen that our national leaders will come to their senses on the moral obligation we have to help settle Syrian refugees on our soil. We have the freedom to do so without threatening our own security. In fact, because of our laws, policies and security practices, we are more prepared than any other nation to assist the Syrian people. Let’s not forget that a century ago the U.S., already a land founded by immigrants, was invigorated by those new Americans who brought their talents in through Ellis Island. Let’s not forget that, more recently, our nation’s action to provide entry to the Cuban exile community helped lift and transform South Florida. The U.S. does not turn its back on citizens of foreign nations fleeing violence and persecution back home. Let’s not forget what makes us great. It’s important for the public to understand there are agencies like the International Rescue Committee, which are designated to handle comprehensive vetting of immigrants, and their actions are collaborative with the state government.
M. John Richard, president, CEO, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
Mi casa es tu casa. As someone whose parents came to the U.S. following Castro’s takeover, I find it hypocritical that some are forgetful about how welcoming our country was to their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, or great-great-grandparents, etc. I trust our Homeland Security to be as stringent as possible during the national verification process for refugees.
Ania Rodriguez, CEO of Key Lime Interactive
Both my parents immigrated to the United States and I am very appreciative of the opportunity they were given. I believe our country has historically been open and welcoming to refugees from all over the world. However, we live in a very different world now and need to take the necessary precautions to insure the safety of our citizens. There are countries where it is very difficult to vet individuals as there are no public records and there is little or no information that can be obtained. We need to be able to create a process whereby we weed out individuals who want to come to the United States to cause harm to our country. There is still work that needs to be done on that front. Once thoroughly vetted, all refugees should be treated with compassion and respect.
Rachel Sapoznik, CEO & president, Sapoznik Insurance
We are a nation built on immigrants. As it reads on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Many of our ancestors would understand what the Syrians are running from. So yes, I believe we should accept more refugees. Traditionally there has always been high tension around this issue, and historical polls show most Americans didn’t initially want to accept Jewish refugees from Europe ahead of World War II. Since then, however, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other country. It goes without saying that due diligence is required, but with the proper security protocols in place there’s no reason why we shouldn’t open our homes and hearts to those in need.
Ginny Simon, founder, CEO, ginnybakes