Why Golden should accept Syrian refugees

Here is the letter I sent to the Mayor and Council today:

To the Honorable Mayor and City Council,

I write to express my support for the City of Golden clearly expressing its openness to welcoming Syrian refugee immigrants along the lines of the Golden Relief Group proposal.

Our country has a long, complicated history with immigration. Although we are, truly, a nation of immigrants, wave after wave – Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Jews, Mexicans, and others – have faced fear, anger, and hostility from those already here.

Yet these very waves of immigrants have contributed in vast ways to our scientific and technological innovations, profoundly enriched our civic and cultural life, and have made extraordinary contributions to the economic health of our communities and of the entire country. This is as true in Golden – the Swedes, Chinese, Germans (including, for instance, the Coors family), Sherpas, and others that have contributed so much – as it is anywhere else in the country, and the vast majority of us in Golden are either immigrants ourselves or the descendants of immigrants.

We live in a time of economic and security uncertainty, to be sure, and the threats we face are real. But we shouldn’t let that fear cloud our generous spirit, our good judgment, and our values. Is it possible that someone who enters the country as a refugee does so with intent to harm Americans and undermine American democracy? Of course, but – according to our own national security experts – the real risks lie elsewhere, and the screening systems for immigrants are thorough and detailed (and if our screening system needs strengthening then let’s fix it rather than merely pretending to do something useful by grandstanding against Syrian refugees).

At a moment of rampant anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant demagoguery, when national politicians call for a national database to track Muslims, suggest that Syrian refugees are the equivalent of rabid dogs, and argue that we should accept only Christian refugees while banning those of other faiths – there is an opportunity for Golden to add some sanity and decency to the conversation.

These are the very people – refugees fleeing their own war-torn country in search of a better life – we should welcome into our communities, offer safe haven to, and create opportunities for becoming engaged and productive members of our towns and cities, as we have for so many immigrants before them.

As Governor Hickenlooper said just a few weeks ago, “We can protect our security and provide a place where the world’s most vulnerable can rebuild their lives.”

As a community built by immigrants, and one that has benefitted enormously from the ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity that results from their arrival and integration in the community, and as a community that genuinely values diversity and inclusivity (including the City Council’s 2006 affirmation of “our commitment to inclusion as a fundamental aspect of our community”), I believe it would be appropriate and laudable for the City Council to make clear we welcome Syrian refugees.


Jacob Smith
601 Cheyenne Street
Golden Colorado 80403