It’s natural to be afraid after hearing about terrorist attacks like the one in Paris last week, and to want to take every reasonable precaution to protect yourself. But out-of-control fear is not going to make anybody safe.

Unfortunately, there’s been an embarrassing parade of governors in the United States who don’t see it that way. They are announcing that in light of the Paris attacks, they would not permit any Syrian refugees to be sheltered in their states. We are not surprised, but still disappointed, that Maine Gov. Paul LePage has joined the chorus of these fearful politicians who are conflating the victims of terror with its perpetrators.

The anti-refugee argument goes like this: At least one of the killers in Paris was carrying a Syrian passport and he appears to have come into Western Europe on the migrant trail, along with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria’s brutal three-way civil war. Since it is difficult to tell real refugees from impostors, the argument goes, the U.S. can’t risk helping any of them. This is ridiculous.

If they had been pretending to be tourists instead of migrants, would we end tourism? If they had been hiding in cargo ships, would we stop world trade? No, and we should not abandon people in need just because we’re scared.

It would not only be inhumane, it’s impractical. Paris is a city of 2.2 million people, with 15 million international visitors each year. There were only eight terrorists involved in the Paris attack.

There is no way that a free country could develop a screening process so tight that eight individuals intent on mayhem couldn’t slip through. This war will not be won by Western democracies abandoning their values and turning themelves into prisons, which is what that level of control over free movement would require.


And shutting out refugees puts us on the wrong side in this conflict. The refugees leaving Syria are running for their lives. By interfering with their escape, we would be helping the Islamic State.

The anti-refugee rhetoric is finding its most fertile ground in the Republican presidential nominating process, where contenders are trying to outdo each other with intolerance, and showing an un-American comfort with religious bigotry.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has suggested that the only acceptable refugees from Syria would be the minority Christians, leaving Muslim victims to their fate. Not to be outdone, Donald Trump has suggested that America should “watch and study” American Muslims’ places of worship, and “strongly consider” shutting some of them down.

Gov. LePage released a radio address Monday that criticizes the Obama administration’s commitment to taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. “This is not a time to incite panic or fear,” LePage says in his address. We agree.

It’s too bad that’s just what he’s doing at a time when we need more from our leaders.

Comments are no longer available on this story