While some students stand with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s attempt to block Syrian refugees from entering Arkansas, others expressed strong disagreement with his stance.
Hutchinson, along with more than two dozen other governors, said that he will not allow refugees to come to Arkansas following the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. Most of the governors, including Hutchinson, said the reason is concern about the potential for terrorists to slip under the radar.
Brock Hyland, president of College Republicans, said he is in agreement with this stance.
“Under normal circumstances I would not side with any governor attempting to ban immigration from specific ethnic groups, but today's circumstances are not normal,” Hyland said.
However, some students are less than ready to accept Gov. Hutchinson’s response to the immigrant crisis.
“I think Gov. Hutchinson’s response to the refugee crisis is disheartening,” graduate student Nathan Watson said. “We’re a nation built on immigrants with the notion of a better life for everyone. It’s disappointing to see the governor take a political stance when innocent lives are at risk.”
As governors continue to declare that refugees will not be accepted into their states, opinions vary on whether or not this is commendable.
“The goal is not to cause racial tension or to persecute a group of people, but to protect our borders, schools, citizens and democracy,” Hyland said. “Safety is No. 1 and we must keep that in mind.”
The debate that continues to rage in most circles is that of safety versus sanctuary. That is, whether the government has a responsibility to protect those who are displaced by war and misfortune.
Watson said he thinks the governor should help the refugees.
“I think each governor has a responsibility to the people of their state to govern how they see best fit, but I can't help but see these moves as governing from fear or political opportunity,” Watson said. “It is sad to see that so many governors have called for a rejection of refugees though.”
Another argument that is prevalent among those who want to bar immigrants from entering their states is the number of homeless in the United States. Many are claiming that, by taking in immigrants while there are still homeless Americans, the government is prioritizing immigrants over United States citizens.
According to the Department of Planning and Urban Development, There are around 1.56 million homeless people in the United States.
“I think that's a silly argument,” Hyland said. “We need to be taking care of our homeless problem regardless of whether or not we're receiving an influx of immigrants.”
Watson had a similar stance on the argument. However, he felt that the nation not only has opportunity to take in refugees from these affected areas, but also a duty to.
“Not only is America in a position to take immigrants, but we have a responsibility to,” Watson said. “These people are being killed in their own country and are caught between their own government, who they oppose, and numerous rebel groups backed by different foreign powers.”
The United States has accepted just over 1,800 Syrian refugees since 2014. The Obama administration plans to accept at least 10,000 more throughout 2016, according to the New York Times.
Many have questioned whether or not governors have the legal authority to keep immigrants out. While many governors have made claims to not letting immigrants into their states, few have given citations to where that power exists.
Most claim that is their duty to protect the residents of their states from any perceived threats. Some have claimed that they have enough immigrants in their state as is. A few political celebrities, including Senator Ted Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, claim that the government should only be allowing Christian immigrants into the nation, according to the Washington Post and press releases from both figures.
The Refugee Act of 1980, which was passed by the Congress, allows the president to accept any and all immigrants that come to the United States. This law does not give the president the power to place those immigrants in any state, though.
However, in 1943, the issue of immigrants in the United States was addressed by the Supreme Court. In an opinion written by Justice Black, the Court declared that state laws that have a disparate impact on the movement of citizens were unconstitutional.