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Op-ed: Thank you, Utah leaders, for standing up for refugee women

On behalf of the hundreds of women refugees served by Women of the World and on behalf of the immigrants, like me, from the Middle East, thank you Governor Herbert, Salt Lake County Mayor McAdams, and Salt Lake City Mayor Biskupski for your courageous stance on behalf of our new neighbors. Our ladies have taken refuge in Salt Lake City. They have placed themselves and their families at your mercy. The path from war, through refugee camps, to unfamiliar lands has been fraught with unimaginable suffering. As they stumble onto our shores, their only hope is that the immorality and victimization ends. The Utah Compact, signed with bipartisan support in 2010, “supports families as the foundation of successful communities and opposes policies that unnecessarily separate families.” The refugees and immigrants detained in airports around the country are separated from their families. Those that chose sides and supported American troops as translators overseas now face deportation into enemy hands. The Executive Action taken by the Federal Government is morally bankrupt. Refugees will continue to drown, starve, and be murdered at the newly locked gates. Furthermore, this Executive Action fails all logical arguments to combat the threats of radical Islamic terrorism, indeed, it weakens our soft-power in the battle for ideas.Yet as Utahns we stand united. Wallace Stegner, a graduate of the University of Utah and the foremost historian of The Mormon Trail in his book “The Gathering of Zion” once penned “The West is less a place than a process. The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation.” Nowhere is this more true than in the caring community that we have formed: where potlucks offer both funeral potatoes and tabouli; where the beauty of nature is appreciated by sportsmen, climbers, and hikers of all creeds; and where neighbors shovel snow from the walks of those working swing shifts. The values of our humanity are not defined by the pen or proclamations of our leaders but in our generosity and neighborliness. Utahns recognize wrong when they see it. We are not different, our experiences change us, and help us to understand others and ourselves. Love and compassion will always triumph over the darkness of hate. Thank you once again to our state, county, and city leadership for your moral authority and to you — our neighbors — for the drawing us together in a community of care. We encourage you to continue your collaboration with other state, county, and state executives to oppose the Federal Muslim ban.

-Samira Harnish, Founder and Executive Director of Women of the World.

Originally published by The Salt Lake Tribune Opinion Page

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