Republican Congressman Steve Russell of Oklahoma is a decorated veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was involved in the operation that tracked down Saddam Hussein and wrote a book about it, We Got Him! A Memoir of the Hunt and Capture of Saddam Hussein. After 21 years of service he retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel and then served the Oklahoma state senate before being elected to United States House of Representatives. He's also the founder and owner of a rifle manufacturing company.
On Thursday, November 19, Congressman Russell addressed the U.S. House and among other things explained what fundamental American values imply about how we should deal with the refugee crisis. The excerpt below runs under five minutes:
His full prepared text can be read at this link. Below is the part covered in the video, followed by a couple of additional paragraphs I wish had been included in the video as well:
While I have tried to focus my comments on actions we should take to eliminate ISIS, one action we should not take is to become them. America is a lamp that lightens the horizon of civilized and free mankind. The Statue of Liberty cannot have a stiff arm. Her arm must continue to keep the torch burning brightly. If we use our passions, anger and fear were to snuff out her flame by xenophobic and knee-jerk policy, the enemy wins. Period.
Here are some Syrian refugee facts you may not know. Despite a long established, multi-layered system to vett and bring refugees into the United States; despite biometric and biographic screening; despite intelligence vetting with the National Counter-Terrorism Center, The FBIs Terrorist Screening Center and the Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security; added to the fact that Syrian refugees receive additional screening due to national security concerns and most of them are women and children; coupled with the fact that only a total of 1900 have entered the country in the last four years, Americans across the country are calling on Lady Liberty to drop her torch and give the stiff arm with perhaps another gesture.
I want you to listen carefully to these statements by members of Congress in response to a refugee bill. Not illegals. Not permanent residents—but refugees. People fleeing for their lives. Listen to these statements.
[Fighting immigration is] “the best vote-getting argument…The politician can beat his breast and proclaim his loyalty to America.” “He can tell the unemployed man that he is out of work because some alien has a job.”
Here’s another one. [Congress must] “protect the youth of America from this foreign invasion.”
And how about this one, “American Children Have First Claim to America’s Charity”
There are many more but these quotes were from 1939. The refugee bill was not for Muslim and Christian Syrians or Iraqi Muslims, Christians and Yizidis. It was for German Jews. While it was true that Germany was a threat, the refugees were not—they were 20,000 children. Not only did that bill of 1939 not pass, but that Congress, with the same speech and rhetoric I am hearing in recent days in this august chamber, passed hurdle after hurdle to make it more difficult for those refugees to enter. They were unfortunately successful.
Mr. Speaker, America protects her liberty and defends her shores not by punishing those who would be free. She does it by guarding liberty with her life. Americans need to sacrifice and wake up. We must not become them. They win if we give up who we are and even more so without a fight.
We guard our way of life by vigilance. We must be watchful. We have to have each others back and be alert to dangers around us. We must speak up when we see something unusual. By maintaining who we are amidst the threat, amidst the hatred, amidst the trials, we win. Patrick Henry did not say give me Safety or give me Death! He said Give me Liberty.
The Congress added a remark not in his text to the effect that Patrick Henry was expressing a willingness to risk his life for Liberty. The video clip above ends at that point, but the following paragraphs are very much worth reading:
We have defended our way of life for 240 years. Now we as Americans must defend it again. We must defend it when the critic sitting on the couch in his underwear eating his bag of cheese puffs is pecking out hatred and vitriol. We must defend it and have courage when voters are caught up with sincere passion demanding security that might kill our liberty. We must defend it with our warriors who have worked hard to keep the fight off our shores by being vigilant and aware at home and while looking after their families. We will always have threats. But liberty, when lost, takes generations, if ever, to regain.
I am asking all Americans to pray for our President. How much time have we spent on our knees at home for our leaders? How much counsel have we sought from the Almighty? It is God who has given us the spark of freedom. It is He we must return to. He will take us and guide us in times of crisis if we only ask him and humble ourselves and seek His face as a nation.
Mr. Speaker, we would not even have a nation without the aid of France. Lady Liberty would not stand on our shores without the generosity of France. And now, as civilization faces peril and trial, we must stand the test shoulder to shoulder with France. This Congress. Our people. Our way of life.