It was predictable that the GOP would close ranks and vote against humanitarian outreach to Syrian and Iraqi refugees — children, parents of those who are not already orphaned, elders. But the House vote of Nov. 19 brought our country to a new low when 47 Democrats voted against refugees as well. Specifically, three Minnesota Democratic congressmen. I am deeply disappointed in Tim Walz and Rick Nolan. I’ve come to expect nothing better from Collin Peterson.

The game that’s afoot for those Democrats, I gather, is the pragmatic girding of loins in purple districts. More to the point, it seems to be a craven, pandering political move as congressional members jockey for position in the 2016 elections. “See, radical right? I’m your new best friend!” I wonder how a human being can disregard such intense suffering and push a button that translates to “not our problem.”

The bill that just passed is an epic example of overkill as a show of force and misguided principles. It was not — is not — necessary for the U.S. to erect yet another wall to disenfranchise desperate people. Consider this from the Department of State: “The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has the international mandate to provide refugee assistance and to determine if resettlement in a third country — be it the United States or another country — is the right solution. … Worldwide, the average processing time is about one year to 18 months. But every case is different, and processing times vary.”

We have made a mockery of the Emma Lazarus inscription on the Statue of Liberty. We are losing standing in the world. Our actions are breeding a level of contempt toward America that likely is unparalleled in history. Haters with military-grade weapons and nothing to lose, i.e., terrorists, have just been aided and abetted by the U.S. Congress. This cannot end well.

Barbara J. Gilbertson, Eagan

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Television news quotes a state governor as saying we need to accept Syrian refugees because our American values include the statement “give me your poor, your huddled masses.” But that phrase is only part of a poem that was never officially approved by anyone in government. The French gave us a statue without a base. A fundraising group was successful in paying for a base. Someone had a plaque made with the inscription from the poem. It was hung on the inside of the base, later to be moved outside. There is no evidence that it was ever officially recognized as part of our national ethos. It does seem, however, that quite a few Americans have thoughtlessly accepted this phrase as something official. The poem, it should be remembered, was composed when the U.S. was still a frontier society, and when industrial growth — and the need for workers — was just in early stages.

Bernard G Schwartzbauer, Edina

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Why is it that our Congress can act so quickly — within a week, no less — to pass a bill that concerns foreigners and was the result of an attack that occurred outside of our borders, yet we are faced with multiple gun deaths of our own citizens by homegrown terrorists each year and have failed miserably to enact gun control. Even worse is that many of our Democratic representatives have cited the upcoming election as a reason for their “yes” vote on halting the refugees process. This means to me that their job security is more important than the lives of their fellow citizens (lack of movement on gun control) or that of the Syrian refugees. Shame on them!

Leslee Jaeger, Plymouth



Of safety, trust and frustration on both sides of the protest

I’m not sure what fairy-tale world the Nov. 20 letter writer who submitted “[c]ertainly, police officers can arrest unarmed suspects without killing them” lives in. It would be neat if we lived in a perfect world, but we do not. Just because a suspect is unarmed doesn’t mean there is no danger to police officers. It was reported that Jamar Clark had manual control of an officer’s weapon by the handle before he was fatally shot by police in Minneapolis. One month ago, Aitkin County Deputy Steve Sandberg was killed during an altercation with an “unarmed” suspect who gained control of Sandberg’s gun. How soon we forget.

Kimberly Shogren, Woodbury

• • •

I’m a retired New Haven, Conn., detective with 27 years of service following military police Army duty. I’ve read the in-depth reporting by the Star Tribune of the shooting death of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police.

Trust is a police officer’s safety net. When that’s discarded, suspicion plus anger are its replacement and the “uniform” is a target — consequences that can affect an entire community. Release the tapes.

Thomas F. Morrissey, Jr., Cheshire, Conn.

• • •

I remember watching events unfold in Ferguson, Mo., and thinking how glad I was that I live in a place where such things couldn’t happen. “It’s Minnesota, for crying out loud! We don’t have systemic corruption and racism infesting our law enforcement agencies. We’re better than that.”

The boiling-over of years of frustration that has emerged following the death of Jamar Clark shows me just how wrong I was. Racism is rampant; read the comments from “good Minnesotans” about the protests, or about Syrian refugees. Watch the unspoken message from the police. For example, why is it that not one of the police vehicles, and not one of the officers, had a camera that was working and turned on? It beggars belief that a bunch of cops responding to a call in Linden Hills wouldn’t have a bunch of cameras, all working just fine.

But not in north Minneapolis. Not in the “black” part of town.

The people protesting are telling you something. Anger and sorrow and rage and hurt like this doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s absolutely imperative that the city government, including the mayor and police chief, listen to what they’re saying and act on it. We cannot simply give up on one part of our great metro area just because the “wrong” people live there. We cannot allow law enforcement to vent its collective spleen on one group.

We’re Minnesotans. We should be better than this. We deserve better. All of us.

Mike Westberg, St. Paul

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Upon skimming through the hundreds of comments regarding the recent protests over perceived police abuse of power, racism and similar affairs, two chief conclusions come to mind: (1) There is a significant number of people, many more than superficial media coverage leads one to believe, who are disgusted and fed up with these protests, and (2) our society is such that anonymous Internet forums seem to be the only place to voice any type of dissent over such race issues, lest you want to be automatically labeled a racist, hatemonger and so forth, no matter what it is you say.

Americans like to take pride in having freedom of speech; however, the soaring level of self-­censorship and of the overt willingness to cry craven for fear of someone taking offense clearly shows that our freedom of speech is greatly restricted, as if we all are walking around with the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.

Scott Bean, Minneapolis