It was an unavoidable thought as news of the terror attacks in Paris spread Friday afternoon: “It could happen here.”
With countless security analysts telling us over the past week that this action opened up a new front in the reach of terrorism worldwide, the notion that San Francisco would be immune to future threats seems like wishful, and dangerous, thinking.
So what’s a peace-loving, immigrant-welcoming city to do?
We must stand by our values as a sanctuary city and continue to welcome people from all walks of life, especially those seeking refuge during times of crisis. Rather than closing our doors to outsiders, San Francisco should be acting boldly in this time of global strife to bring in as many families in need as possible and find ways to make them feel at home.
We must resist the urge to become a colder city. The Super Bowl is coming to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara in less than three months, with many festivities planned in The City. In the past week, some panic over how to control the crowds and prevent possible terrorist plots has begun to circulate.
Earlier this month, voters dumped Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in part because he released an undocumented immigrant onto the streets rather than hand him over to federal immigration officials. This man is now accused of killing a woman on The Embarcadero, and many hold Mirkarimi responsible for allowing the alleged crime to happen.
Responding to the Paris attacks, some conservative governors around the United States have vowed to block Syrian refugees from entering their states. In contrast, California Gov. Jerry Brown this week reaffirmed the Golden State’s commitment to uphold “America’s traditional role as a place of asylum.” On Monday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also said his state would continue to take in refugees.
Living in a post 9/11-world requires Americans to be more vigilant and assertive about putting security protections in place. However, it’s important that we do not allow rhetoric and fear guide our policies toward responding to the influx of Syrians seeking refuge from tyranny and violence. If we do not extend a helping hand to refugees and allow them to set up residency within our nation’s borders, it would only strengthen the hand of the Islamic State and its supporters.
An attack could happen here and we must be on guard, but we can’t allow fear to dictate how we live, how we act towards others and to alter the kind of city we have chosen to create.
At a time when the rest of the country, and the world, seems to be moving in the other direction, San Francisco should embrace its identity as a city that welcomes newcomers, invites more than our share of refugees and stands by our values as a place of sanctuary.