Letter: Annette Howell

From: Annette Howell


I am responding to the letter “Keeping America safe top priority for president,” and specifically the writer’s accusation that Germany made a mistake by accepting refugees and that the U.S. is safer without them.

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican and have lived in Indiana since 1987. I was raised in Germany, still have family there and have visited twice since the influx of refugees, which totals 10 times more than the U.S. has accepted. By comparison, Germany is 1/28th the size of the U.S., or roughly the size of Montana.

My German family and I have had nothing but positive experiences with Syrian refugees. I have visited homes where refugees are staying, spoken to mothers and children, and seen firsthand what it means for them to be able to finally live without fear. One family shared with me how their grandfather was crushed and killed when a bomb destroyed their house. They barely got away with their lives and the clothes on their backs.

As the German chancellor reminded the U.S. president, as part of the Geneva Convention we are obliged to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds. For the United States, a nation of immigrants, it’s disappointing to imagine otherwise, though this is exactly what the president is attempting.

Unlike Germany, where refugees show up at the border by foot or ground transportation, here they must arrive by airplane after months or even years of intense screening. In no way are they pouring into this country indiscriminately.

About 75 percent of Syrian refugees coming to the USA are women and children. First they must gain refugee status from the United Nations, which is only granted for the most vulnerable and account for less than 1 percent of refugees. They are vetted through multiple interviews, background checks, screenings and case reviews involving international and U.S.-based agencies. For Syrians, it averages about two years.

I encourage readers to research refugee screening at the Office of Homeland Security site, uscis.gov/refugeescreening.

My experience and opinion are that this ban is absurd and does not make America safer. I commend our court system for taking the just and common sense actions to overturn it.