This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As the governor of a state founded by religious and political refugees, who first fled and then rejoined a nation that also was founded by many religious and political refugees, Gary Herbert is likely to be guided by a more understanding heart than far too many of the nation's other chief executives.
Thus is Herbert sending out hopeful vibes on the possibility that a handful of the millions of people who are fleeing war and starvation in Syria might find sanctuary in Utah.
Politics being what it is, though, Herbert has also left himself some wiggle room. He laid down the necessary markers to avoid being tagged with a "soft on terror" label.
The official statement from the governor's office said that he had ordered state agencies to "immediately re-evaluate the security checks" used by the federal agencies that deal with political refugees. If necessary, the governor's office said, he would "implement a change in state policy."
Which is rather silly, as Utah does not have a state policy for the resettlement of refugees. Nor do the 27 states where the (mostly Republican) governors have heartlessly, foolishly and lawlessly reacted to the massacre in Paris by proclaiming that they will not receive any refugees from Syria.
Granting asylum is strictly a federal matter. Of course Herbert and the Utah congressional delegation should keep an eye on the feds and call them out on any flaws. But the pretense that any state has a refugee policy is an unhelpful distraction.
What is helpful was the way Herbert chose to conclude his official statement on the issue: "Utahns are well known for our compassion for those who are fleeing the violence in their homeland, and we will work to do all we can to ease their suffering without compromising public safety."
Thus might Utah be an all-too-rare example of decency that not only warms the heart but also makes logical sense.
Anything the United States does to turn its back on refugees from the parts of the world where the Islamic State is causing widespread carnage would only play into the hands of the terrorists, whose primary goal is to stoke just the kind of xenophobia and anti-Islamic bigotry that helps IS win sympathy, recruit suicide-vest fodder and kill more people most of them, even after the events in Paris, other Muslims.
The most shameful parts of American history are those instances where we lashed out at, or turned our backs on, people due to their ethnicity, religion or national origin.
Utah has recently opened a museum to mark one such legacy, memorializing the World War II internment camp for Japanese-Americans at Topaz. It's a grand gesture, but one that won't be worth much if we cannot learn from it.