So far, in all the punditry surrounding the issue of immigration vetting in the wake of the Paris attacks, no one has expressed my view quite like columnist Timothy Eagen.

“A bigger fear than a homeless victim of a savage war is a homegrown crazy with an assault rifle,” he wrote. “If only the two-year vetting process now applied to those seeking refuge were used to screen unstable Americans purchasing guns at the mall.”

He nailed it. I believe the fear-mongering in America ignores the fact that a stringent policy of immigrant vetting is already in place.

David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said on “PBS News Hour” last week, “The U.S. has a really excellent record in maintaining the security vetting process in respect of refugees. … It’s a very, very rigorous security vetting process. And one of the dangers of the current debate in the U.S. is that the facts get lost. And the facts are 12 to 15 U.S. government agencies, including the intelligence agencies, spend 18 to 24 months vetting all the refugees who are put forward for resettlement into the U.S.”

A far less stringent vetting process existed when my grandfather came to America from Czechoslovakia in the late 1800s. I know very little about it except that he was said to be alone, 13 years old. A refugee? I don’t know. At some point, he made his way to southern Minnesota where he built windmills, perhaps for some of my Norwegian and Danish forebears who were immigrants there.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, many of us will give thanks for our freedom among the many blessings of food, family and friends that we so enjoy – thanks for our immigrant forebears who gave us life here. Our freedom descends from a rich history of immigrants who, in turn, pledge to uphold the principles of our nation, sometimes giving their lives in defense of those freedoms. Among our principles is that America has succeeded by receiving immigrant refugees, regardless of skin color or religious preferences.

I support the existing rigorous vetting process, and we should not let our humanitarian immigration policy become another wedge issue to divide us and threaten our reputation as a land of opportunity and generosity.

Andras Simonyi, the former ambassador to the U.S. from Hungary, spoke on the same “News Hour” program with Miliband: “If we allow these events to result in us giving up our ideals, our principles, which includes, of course, welcoming refugees who are really, really in trouble, running from war zones, then we are giving up more than just — just the refugees. Then we’re giving up what our societies are supposed to be about.”

The governor of my home state has made it clear that the recent events will not keep Minnesota from welcoming Syrian refugees. He gets what America is all about. The governor of the state that has been my home since 1968 says Wisconsin will not. The contrast is striking and an embarrassment for the good-hearted people of Wisconsin who would be willing to accept properly vetted refugees.

Dave Skoloda is an award-winning journalist and former owner and editor of the Onalaska

Community Life and Holmen Courier.


Randy Erickson, formerly the editor of the Onalaska Holmen Courier-Life and Coulee News, covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or

Load comments