As a growing number of governors say they won't accept Syrian refugees in their states following last week's terror attacks in Paris, one Syrian woman living in New Jersey holds up her own life as an example of how the opposite approach works.
"America is heaven," said the 26-year-old refugee named Sandy. "I found peace. I found a chance."
Sandy, whose last name is not being published because her family remains in Syria, spoke with NBC 4 New York Wednesday at Ponds Reformed Church in Oakland, where she met Rev. Nathan Busker, whose family has taken her in.
"These are people who just want a chance. They just want an opportunity," Busker said, who met Sandy when she knocked on the church's front door and asked to pray there. "Sandy's a great story about what can happen when we trust the process, and we welcome them into our communities."
Sandy is one of about 75 Syrian refugees allowed into New Jersey over the past year. She vividly recalled the horror of living in a nation gripped by war, and said she constantly worries that her family in Syria will become ISIS' next victims.
"Sometimes, when I'm going to school, when I say goodbye to my mom, I don't know if I'm coming back alive or no. It's horrible," Sandy said of living in Syria.
After last week's terror attacks in Paris, there are growing fears ISIS could infiltrate the U.S. by posing as Syrian refugees. Governors from 31 states have said they won't accept Syrian refugees, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie sent a letter to President Obama Tuesday reading in part, "I have no doubt ISIS will try to exploit American humanitarianism. Neither you nor any federal official can guarantee that Syrian refugees will not be part of any terroristic activity."
Sandy said she's hurt by Christie's comments, and believes America can help thousands of refugees without sacrificing security.
"They deserve a better life. They deserve a safe life," she said.
Community leaders in New Jersey also immediately pushed back against Christie's statements.
"This type of language is really perpetuating a discourse of hate, a discourse of fear," Sami Catovic of New Brunswick Islamic Center told NBC 4 New York Tuesday.
Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park said, "The people in the state of New Jersey can smell a skunk, and this connection is just so absurd."
Kaper-Dale has also taken a leading role in support of refugees; on Sunday, his church sponsored a march to raise money to bring more of them to New Jersey.
"We're not going to stop," he said. "Are you kidding me?"
Sandy now works two jobs in the hope that one day she can bring her family to the U.S.
Asked where she wants to be in 5 or 10 years, she smiled: "I want to be American."