Migrants from Syria wait for a bus after crossing into Hungary from the border with Serbia on a field near the village of Roszke, September 5, 2015. Austria and Germany threw open their borders to thousands of exhausted migrants on Saturday, bussed to the Hungarian border by a right-wing government that had tried to stop them but was overwhelmed by the sheer numbers reaching Europe's frontiers. Left to walk the last yards into Austria, rain-soaked migrants, many of them refugees from Syria's civil war, were whisked by train and shuttle bus to Vienna, where many said they were resolved to continue on to Germany. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

In response to the recent attacks in Paris, Governor Scott Walker recently joined over 20 other governors in rejecting the plan to accept the immigration of Syrian refugees. According to Walker, “it is clear that the influx of Syrian refugees poses a threat.” Under the guise of “protecting citizens from future threats,” the real message that is being sent is one filled with xenophobia and prejudice.

Within seconds of the tragic attacks in Paris, the media jumped onto labeling the attackers. From reporters asking if the attackers spoke Arabic to the immediate blame put on the refugee influx, it was clear that the personas of the attackers were already decided. Although a Syrian passport was found on one of the attackers, it has already been disputed as a fake passport. Despite this, individuals in power have already jumped on the opportunity to blame the refugee crisis and to, in turn, demonize the refugees trying to enter the United States.

By labeling Syrian refugees as “potential threats,” Governor Walker not only groups refugees with terrorists, but also fails to recognize the dire situations these refugees are put in. Not only are they fleeing from the violence of ISIS, but also the horrid attacks from the Assad regime. The Assad regime, one of the cruelest regimes in today’s world, has massacred innocent civilians for the last 4½ years — from airstrikes to chemical weapons. Since 2011, over 200,000 innocent civilians have died from the crisis. Over 50 percent of Syrian refugees are children. These refugees are fleeing from the very same violence that these politicians are aligning them with.

Governor Walker and others are playing into an agenda of labeling the Syrian refugee as an “other.” This “other” label works to distance the Syrian refugees from being victims and shifts their image to one of distrust and suspicion. Instead of empathizing with refugees and upholding our country to a higher standard, blatant messages are sent of hate and prejudice to individuals who have faced hate and violence for far too long. These refugees are not terrorists. They are innocent civilians struggling to flee from a home they no longer can recognize. With heartbreaking images of innocent children washed up ashore to families separated on their journey across dangerous seas, what conscious do we have to not only deny refugees but also demonize and vilify these innocent people?

Throughout history, the United States has been home to refugees from every corner of the globe. Even Wisconsin has been a home to refugees from Eastern Asia to Latin America. On the Statue of Liberty, an iconic symbol of this country, lies an inscription:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

To Governor Walker and the 26 other politicians across the United States, accepting refugees is an integral part of this country’s history. For hundreds of years, the United States has welcomed the poor, the tired, those yearning to breathe free. To deny this acceptance of Syrian refugees facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in today’s age, is to shamelessly turn your back on innocent people seeking only peace and a better life.