“Paris changes everything.”
That phrase, uttered many times this week by governors across the country and the leaders of many European nations, reflects the growing concern of many that the open door immigration policy offered to Syrian refugees was a mistake.
Governors across the country are scrambling to close off their states to resettled Syrian refugees in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris that are linked to Islamic State extremists.
Governors of Illinois, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Michigan, Alabama, Texas and Arkansas -- a majority of them Republican -- have said that they are seeking to stop the relocation of new Syrian refugees to their states out of fear that violent extremists posing as refugees might gain entry to the country.
And in Europe, a string of countries have imposed border controls to prevent the mass movement of people across the continent, including Sweden, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland, Austria, France and Belgium. Polish officials announced the country would withdraw from a European Union agreement that would have allowed Syrian refugees to settle there and other countries are considering similar measures.
In Niagara Falls, Mayor Paul Dyster is keeping his lips zipped, but his membership in an organization called Cities United for Immigration Action speaks volumes. The organization is actually lobbying to allow more than the 10,000 Syrian refugees President Barack Obama said the country would accept.
Dyster believes that Syrian refugees, most of whom don’t speak English and some of whom may be terrorists, are the answer to shoring up the city’s declining population figures.
Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan issued a statement declaring that his state would not be open to refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.
Snyder’s statement noted Michigan’s “rich history of immigration” and said, “but our first priority is protecting the safety of our residents.”
Snyder said those efforts would now be suspended until further evidence of more rigid security measures.
“As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way,” he declared. “The acts of terror committed over the weekend are a tragic reminder to the world that evil exists and takes the form of terrorists who seek to destroy the basic freedoms we will always fight to preserve.”
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is the first Democrat to express support for halting the flow of refugees to the U.S. pending further assurances that the refugee vetting process is adequate.
"The Governor has always made clear that we must ensure robust refugee screening to protect American citizens, and the Governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people," she said in a statement.
President Barack Obama called the reaction “shameful.”
"The United States has to step up and do its part," Obama said. "And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who's fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that's shameful."
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said additional security assurances from the federal government before he would want refugees coming to his state. Currently, the only requirement for Syrian refugees is that they don’t have outstanding international arrest warrants on them.
“No, I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria,” Baker told reporters. “I would need to know a lot more than I know now before I would agree to do anything.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott went further, calling on Obama to halt all plans to accept refugees into the United States entirely.
"Given the tragic attacks in Paris and the threats we have already seen, Texas cannot participate in any program that will result in Syrian refugees — any one of whom could be connected to terrorism — being resettled in Texas," Abbott said in a letter to Obama.
But in Niagara Falls, the atrocity in Paris has been cause for little more than changing the color of the lights on the falls after dark.
The Syrians are known to play cricket, and Dyster’s new cricket field would see even more play should they arrive in their hundreds.