The following are a collection of letters that ran in the Nov. 26 edition of the Riverhead News-Review:
Shame on them
At times of fear in the history of our country, there have been examples of politicians stoking that fear with shameful results. The Japanese internment camps during World War II and the blacklists during the McCarthy era are two examples.
Last week, our Congressman Lee Zeldin (along with Long Island Democrats Steve Israel and Kathleen Rice) voted for a bill to halt the immigration into the United States of 10,000 Syrian immigrants who have been the victims of war and ISIL terrorists in their native country. Mr. Zeldin, unlike Mr. Israel and Ms. Rice, brags on his website of endorsing six other anti-Muslim immigration bills that are even harsher than the one that passed the House.
These Syrian refugees are already the most vetted immigrants in the world. So far of the 23,000 Syrians in camps in the Middle East who have been certified for us by the United Nations, our Department of Homeland Security has found only 7,000 to be acceptable to interview for approval. Of these, we have accepted only 2,165 so far and most of these are families including many women, children and the elderly. This process has already taken 18 months on average and because of time limits any delay will cause the pending applications of these families suffering severe hardships to expire. Compare this to the 800,000 refugees who are being accepted by Germany.
Our country is a nation of immigrants, and after successfully absorbing almost 450,000 Vietnamese in the ’70s, this is something that we know how to do. I urge Mr. Zeldin to focus his efforts instead on tightening up the Visa Waiver program, which allows 20 million foreign visitors to enter the U.S. for 90 days with little screening from 38 countries. He can also show political courage and, as New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton urges, get behind closing the loophole that currently allows suspected terrorists on the Terrorist Watch List to legally purchase firearms.
Jerry Silverstein is a Calverton Resident
Who have we become?
We are a nation of immigrants. We came to avoid religious persecution: We came to seek safety, we came for opportunity, we came because there was nowhere else to go. Now our Congress rejects our heritage and says we are fearful of a mere 10,000 people who need our open door who can no longer live in safety in their homeland. This is disgraceful.
We are afraid that one Syrian refugee will be an ISIS infiltrator. Why is it that people who are on the watch list of terrorists are permitted to buy guns in this country? There have been over 2,000 guns purchased by people on the watch list, according to recent news reports, but our Congress won’t pass significant background check legislation for fear of the NRA. In the meantime, we read of weekly massacres carried out by our own citizens against people in a Bible group, kids in a classroom and people in movie theaters.
In 2014, 12,569 people in the United States died in gun-related incidents. Not one of them was killed in a terrorist attack.
Steve Curry is a Southold Resident
When history repeats itself
In the late 1930s, fear and prejudice led the United States to deny entry to Jewish refugees, who then died in the Holocaust — a stain on our national honor. Today, fear and prejudice are leading some politicians to advocate denying entry to Syrian refugees.
The claim of a need to make the vetting process for such refugees more rigorous is absurd, given that the process is already so thorough that it takes up to two years. Clearly no jihadi would get in this two-year-long line for admission, when a quicker and surer route to entry would be via a tourist visa. The House-passed legislation about refugees will not protect us — it is only a vehicle for politicians to posture, while potentially harming the people who have already been victimized by the jihadi radicals.
Our congressman, Lee Zeldin, voted for this outrageous legislation.
Stanley Brown is a New Suffolk resident
A frightening future
For the first time in my life, I am frightened for the future of our wonderful country.
As a nation, in my lifetime, we survived the brutal murders of President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, as well as 9/11. We came together and became stronger. But now, especially after the Paris terrorist attacks, we are becoming a horridly divided country.
We have candidates running for president who are stirring the putrid hate pot that is inciting the most outrageous bigotry since Hitler. One of those men may get the nomination. The only thing I can say about that for us, a nation, is in the words of Bugs Bunny: “Be afraid; be very, very afraid.”
Rosellen Storm is a Southold resident
Photo credit: Ben White/ CAFOD, flickr