Related local news story, published Nov. 17: Georgia politicians debating Syrian refugee issue cite national security, compassion
A Gainesville surgeon and Syrian immigrant says the anxiety some Americans feel over the possible resettlement of refugees from his war-ravaged, native country is a “legitimate concern … but we should also avoid exaggerating the threat.”
Dr. Nabil Muhanna, a neurosurgeon at The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville, chimed in this week on the ongoing civil war in Syria as well as political tensions in the United States following President Barack Obama’s announcement to accept about 10,000 Syrian refugees trying to flee the region.
Having himself moved from Syria in 1972 “to come to the best place in the world to study medicine,” Muhanna joined The Longstreet Clinic in April 2010 when his practice, Specialty Clinics of Georgia — Neurosurgery, merged with the local primary care and multi-specialty medical group.
Muhanna said the refugees should be granted entrance to the United States “after subjecting them to strict scrutiny. Admitting them after scrutinizing them would be safe. I am 100 percent confident.”
There are some who do not share Muhanna’s opinion. Among them are Gov. Nathan Deal, who said earlier this week that the state will not accept Syrian refugees, though it was unclear at the time whether he had the legal power to impose the ban.
He issued an executive order Monday directing agency leaders to prevent resettlement of Syrian refugees in Georgia “in light of” the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris. He is among governors in 31 states opposing the refugee program.
Lavinia Limon, president and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration, said states have no legal authority to block refugees from being resettled in their communities.
The White House on Wednesday threatened a presidential veto of House Republican legislation calling for increased screenings for Syrian and Iraqi refugees before they can enter the United States.
On Thursday, the House rebuked Obama by ignoring his veto threat and approving the Republican bill erecting new barriers for the refugees. The curbs could suspend refugees from entering the country for months or years.
U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, 9th District, supported the bill.
Obama and many Democrats have argued that barring Syrian and Iraqi refugees would be a strategic blunder and contrary to American values.
The political battle over the refugee program came about in part by a Syrian passport found near the body of one of the Paris suicide attackers, though its authenticity has not been established and officials said it might have been planted to stoke fears.
Muhanna said the United States should “never forget that refugees and foreigners have in many ways substantially benefitted the West.”
Added Muhanna: “Mr. Steve Jobs, for instance, is of Syrian descent.”
A former U.S. Army Chief of Neurosurgery, Muhanna is also a member of the American Medical Association and the Education Council for Foreign Medical School Federation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.