May 19, 2024

Opinion: A student’s letter to Gov. Bill Haslam

Drew Lafasto writes a letter addressed to Gov. Haslam concerning his recent statement about barring Syrian refugees from seeking refuge in Tennessee.

[title_box title=”Opinion: A student’s letter to Gov. Bill Haslam”]

For Gov. Bill Haslam:

What if the Syrian refugees are displaced from their country and need the protection from what we also want protection from– the Islamic State?

In accordance to the UN Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, any persons who is displaced by war (1967), religious persecution, politics, race or nationality who need to seek asylum across international borders also deserve basic human rights to the bare necessities: food, water, education, shelter and healthcare.

The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, requested to allow 85,000 refugees in the year 2016. In 2017, we can accept 100,000 refugees, according to the Associated Press release. I find it completely unfair that people escaping war, death and violence are not being received by the countries with proper infrastructure and means to support others because of the islamaphobia–prejudice and discrimination against Muslim people– and misconceptions of who the refugees are.

No one wants to deal with the Islamic State. That’s why we’ve seen such a drop in Syrian population. Pre-war population, we saw 22 million people. Now there are 16.6 million people in Syria, not even accounting the number of displaced people. There are more than 4 million in Syria who need help. 500,000 have left to seek asylum in Europe. No one wants to be in a country where their neighbors are dying, where their family members are dying. The refugees are looking for security.

The Islamic State is not good nor is the Syrian president*, Bashar al-Assad. Assad has taken away the basic human rights of many within the country, a reason for the civil war we have been watching take place in Syria.

However, we are generalizing a group of people. We are generalizing all Syrian refugees as terrorists. It’s the same concept as comparing all Christians to members of the Westboro Baptist Church.

There are going to be extremists in all religions, but that does not mean we should generalize people because of one small group.

Most people who are refugees are between the ages of 18 and 65 and are very well-skilled, middle-class people. They don’t want to die.

Why can’t we be welcoming and help out others in need of being helped? I am willing to help any refugee out by providing clothing, water and food so they know they have security here in the U.S.

Why can’t we help people in need when we would want the same for ourselves in a time of need?

I agree, for the sake of security, the screening, acceptance and placement of the refugees should continue to happen, as you had mentioned on your Facebook status. That is something that is required to happen at the federal level. Yet, as a humanitarian crisis, we should at least provide help to anyone who needs it.

Many organizations are willing to help, such as The Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s ServicesTyson House Lutheran and Episcopal Campus Ministry, Bridge Refugee Services, Red Cross and Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.  Some of these places are located at the University of Tennessee while other organizations are across some parts of East Tennessee.

If the Facebook status had included a generalization of ALL refugees to be halted from entering Tennessee, the status would have seemed less islamaphobic. Its assumption that allowing Syrian refugees will cause terrorism is ignorant.

The enemies are not the refugees.

They are trying to find safety, security and a better life than what they have been living.

We should do something to help.


A Concerned Student

*Correction: November 20, 2015

An earlier version of the article did not specify Bashar al-Assad as the president of Syria. It is now changed from “their leader” to the Syrian president for clarity and accuracy.  

Featured Image by Photo Unit’s Flickr, obtained via

The opinion of our writers/bloggers are not a reflection of the opinion of the Tennessee Journalist as a whole.

Edited by Courtney Anderson and Jessica Carr

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Drew LaFasto manages the Tennessee Journalist Facebook page and contributes articles for the news website. She is a senior in journalism at the University of Tennessee and works as a video editor at WBIR. With a broadened scope of passions within the realm of journalism, LaFasto enjoys all media formats as well as combining them. When she isn't at work or at school, she is most likely playing video games, looking at weather maps or making art. She aspires to become a meteorologist at a news station or the National Weather Service.

1 thought on “Opinion: A student’s letter to Gov. Bill Haslam

  1. To be clear, the leader of the “Islamic State” is not Bashar al-Assad. Assad is the President of Syria. Yes Assad is an oppressive leader and forcing people from Syria, but he is not the leader of ISIS. Great letter to Gov. Haslam though; I completely agree. It is America’s duty and blessing to welcome others who are fleeing oppression and seeking freedom and necessities to live life. Welcoming and fostering refugees is a great privilege that the United States should hold dear.

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