As Europe struggles to handle an influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees who are fleeing war and oppression, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley sees it as an opportunity for Iowa and the United States to show compassion. Grassley, a Republican, says Iowa stood out as a global leader in taking in those who have needed our help in decades past and we need to do so again.
“When it’s humanitarian, in particular where people’s lives are in danger, nothing has changed of Americans’ attitude,” Grassley says. “I know we even did it after World War II but the ones that get the most attention are the Vietnamese ‘boat people’ of the 1970s and early 80s.” Iowa’s then-Governor Robert Ray visited Asian refugee camps in 1975 and offered to accept thousands of the so-called “boat people” who had been driven out to sea by the Vietnamese government, the first American leader to do so.
The latest crops of refugees are fleeing warfare in nations like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Statements by some presidential candidates have stirred up anti-immigrant feelings for some Americans, but Grassley says people who are fleeing Middle Eastern nations due to the violence need to be offered a safe haven. “I think we’re prepared to accept some more refugees,” Grassley says. “I’m not speaking just about Iowa because I don’t think I want to single Iowa out for any particular numbers, any more than any other state, but for the country as a whole, yes.”
While Grassley favors offering our nation as sanctuary with open arms to the masses fleeing war, he says we need to do so with our eyes wide open as well. “Since the jihadists of the Middle East have threatened to use any means possible to kill Americans and Western Europeans, both continents ought to be very careful who they let in,” Grassley says. “Somebody will use the refugee situation to get some real rabble rousers into our country who want to do damage.”
France and the UK agreed on Monday to take in a combined 44-thousand migrants, the biggest numbers since the end of the last world war, while Germany has agreed to accept up to 800-thousand by the end of this year. Grassley says the U.S. should help in proportion to what other countries are doing. The U.S. has made no commitments to taking in refugees but is sending billions in humanitarian aid.