The terrorist attacks that struck Paris on November 13 were as shocking as they were tragic. In the aftermath of such a tragedy, Americans and Europeans are completely justified in calling on their governments for protection against such heinous violence. Governments will be forced to adapt to the new reality, as they should. However, if the past twenty-four hours are any indication, the majority of American policymakers are headed in exactly the wrong direction.
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, but since the twentieth century, refugees fleeing conflict and persecution in particular have found safe harbor in the U.S. Be they those fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany, or escaping cartel violence in Central and South America today, refugees have sought relative peace in our society. American citizens’ treatment of refugees has never been perfect, but there is broad consensus today that immigration has benefitted the U.S. It would be a grave mistake to reverse course now by shutting our doors to refugees of present-day conflict. Even worse, in doing so, we would be giving terrorists like the Islamic State exactly what they want: a hostile American society in which impressionable Muslims no longer feel welcome.