In the late 19th century, much of the world, including the United States, opened its doors to thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing poverty and persecution.

They came from that part of greater Syria that was to become the free state of Lebanon, and, as everyone knows, these wonderful people have contributed a special richness to the economic, cultural and social life of the Waterville area for more than 100 years.

To be sure, we must be extra diligent in screening for terrorists among asylum seekers from every country, but we must never to use the broad brush of hateful xenophobia to discriminate against thousands of innocent men, women and children who are starving and need help from a nation that is founded on openness and freedom.

As we have this debate, it is well to remember that if we had slammed the door on entire populations of people in the past, the vast majority of us would not be here at all.

Earl Smith, Belgrade Lakes

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