Over half of the nation’s governors have flooded news channels this past week because of high demands to bar Syrian refugees in consequence of the attacks on Paris. Thirty one U.S. governors are encouraging the public to doubt our nation’s capability of checking Syrian refugees, claiming there are major threats imposed on the security and protection of our citizens and thus, a high risk for terrorist attacks.
The issue surrounding refugees and Daesh, commonly known as ISIS, calls for an overview and contemplation of a multiple questions. Have we forgotten who we truly are as a nation? Do we know the facts of not only the history of our country, but the current stance we hold in the Middle East?
Throughout history, the United States has illustrated many examples of aid and support toward refugees. After the end of the Vietnam War, we occupied 125,000 Vietnamese refugees due to our role in the conflict. By 1975, the number had grown to housing 750,000. We had a morally obligated duty to help the Vietnamese after our withdrawal from the war which allowed Communists to win, and we acted on it.
Aside from the Vietnamese, over 300,000 Soviet Jews came to America after 1988, and let's not forget the millions of Cubans we took in. Most Americans did not notice this rise, and usually don't because no pressing issues arose from these events.
Now you might be wondering why it is we are obligated to help Syrian refugees when they are easily blamed as an enemy. Well, for starters, many of our presidents are responsible for the creation of this conflict. So to follow, do we have a moral obligation for resolution? Whether you blame George W. Bush for beginning the “War on Terror” that started the mayhem in Iraq, which knocked over into Syria, or you point the finger at Barack Obama for withdrawing from Iraq and failing to remove the tyrannical Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. After all it's not about whose fault it is anymore, just what needs to get done.
Despite our hesitation in allowing Syrian refugees into our nation, other countries are stepping up and putting down their borders to welcome them. Sweden has allowed entry of nearly 65,000 refugees, while Germany is planning to factor in 800,000 by the end of 2015. Turkey stands out the most by having sheltered 1.9 million Syrians within their borders.
So how many does the United States plan to refuge? A mere 1,500. The White House agreed to hold another 10,000 in the upcoming year, which is a piffling comparison to other countries. Upon further speculation amongst our nation's citizens, including misguided thoughts and false accusations, I have listed below six reasons why it is necessary to provide our help to the Syrian people.
1. Refugees did not administer the previous bombings or Paris attacks.
All of the Paris bombers identified are citizens of the European Union.Only one of the aggressors was said to have a Syrian passport, which French officials declared as fake. Union officials have been very clear these assailants were not Syrian refugees. So Europe's main problem is not terrorists posing as refugees but the security system within it's borders. In fact, most of the extremists are French or Belgian nationals, so should we block these particular foreigners from entering the U.S. as well?
The bottom line is, the man with the fake Syrian passport never received approval by the United Nations or vetting intelligence agencies as refugee status from any country. There was no way these people could be refugees. Those seeking asylum lack the knowledge and resources of a new environment which an attacker knows about including criminal networking. Even the Boston bombers came to America as very young children and went through a different vetting process as youth of an asylee.
2. It is senseless to think terrorists will wait to receive refugee status for entry.
Let’s get one thing clear, it has been non-refugees that carried out all U.S. terrorist attacks over the past 35 years, meaning they used other methods to arrive in the country than the process of entering as a refugee. Even the hijackers of 9/11 entered our land with tourist and student visas. Visas are much easier to obtain than entering on the status of a refugee, which is the most difficult way to enter the U.S. It simply makes no sense to wait up to three years just to enter as a terrorist.
Despite what Senator Marco Rubio has alleged, these refugees face mounds of paperwork and extensive interviews. The entire process can take anywhere from 18 months to 3 years to be cleared. First, they must be registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, where the agency performs background checks and reviews whether the person belongs to any of the 45 “categories of concern” based on their life and work in Syria. According to the State Department, refugees are the most heavily vetted people to enter America. After being inspected by the UN’s refugee agency, they are then separately checked by officials from the State Department, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department.
On the contrary, a refugee aiming to reach Europe can pay $1,000 (£660) for a smuggler to take them across the six-mile-wide strait that connects Turkey and the Greek islands. Due to Europe’s Schengen system that allows passage through the EU without the prerequisite of showing a passport, they are fingerprinted and allowed entry into Europe whether or not they have proper documents of identification. They then travel through different European countries until they arrive to one accepting refugees, such as Germany, Sweden or Austria. This means a migrant could undoubtedly have reached Paris without a single background check.
Refugees in Europe arrive in enormous numbers to countries like Greece and Italy where European governments do not have security control in tact. This safety issue is a completely different matter than America faces, because random boats of refugees are not casually washing up on the shores of our East Coast without notice. We are only obligated to rehome as many refugees as we wish, and we can choose whatever process of investigation we desire before allowing them to step foot on our soil.
3. Worried about our homeless before refugees?
Are we really that solitary? Why must we only care for humans if they share our same origin? Shouldn’t we care for the rest of the world and broaden our mindset? Perhaps you are worried for economical reasons, but if so, why do we constantly restrict our tax dollars from helping the homeless and war veterans in the past, yet use this as an excuse against accepting refugees in the future? Refugees are not new to us. In 2014, the U.S. permitted the entry of about 70,000 refugees annually, taking in 400 from Syria, 758 from Afghanistan and 19,651 from Iraq. How are these people different from those we are to help today? There is an urgent need to help Syrians, a good half of the 22 million are homeless. Seven and a half million have migrated within the surrounding areas and about four million have dispersed throughout Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other nearby nations. While hundreds of thousands have attempted to make the voyage from the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, over 5,000 refugees have died in their attempt. Think about this experience as a human and compare it to that of our homeless. These people have lost their home from a despairing war.
4. U.S. refugees are not likely to convert to radical Islam upon arrival in the U.S.
The tedious vetting process all refugees are required to go through actually deters terrorists. America has fostered millions of refugees since the 1980's. In fact, since 2001 the Economist demonstrated that we have admitted 750,000 refugees, yet not a single one has been associated with domestic terrorism in the U.S. Our security screening process has proven record of controlling threats from refugees, and there is no record that one has committed an act of terrorism, according to U.S. Traditional law enforcement.
Syrian refugees are not fighters or terrorists; in fact, this is why they are fleeing their native land. If you are worried a Syrian refugee would come to America and convert to radical Islam, ask yourself this: Why would they waste their time seeking refuge when they could easily convert to ISIS for “safety” against Bashar and have the ability to stay in their homeland? Again, it cannot be stressed enough, they desire to come here is to escape the terrorism, death, hate and propaganda of al-Qaeda and Daesh. These people are victims of America’s enemies, fleeing the oppression of Bashar al-Assad and the savagery of Daesh and al-Qaeda. These people are afraid of the exact same thing as we are, the Islamic State.
By fleeing Syria, refugees are going against Daesh’s word. ISIS has even condemned refugees for fleeing their areas of control. "It is correct for Muslims to leave the lands of the infidel for the lands of Islam, but not vice versa," said an ISIS video back in September.
Barring Syrian refugees indeed fulfills ISIS desires. Control. With our refusal to help, refugees see their only salvation to be surrounding areas of Syria, or worse, ISIS. These people simply are not escaping bloodshed and extremism to eventually convert and spread it.
This only proves to radicals of Islam that the West is hostile, ideologically and materially, toward Syria and Muslims. “For those who want to blame the Paris attacks on refugees, you might want to get your facts straight,” wrote Aaron Zelin, an analyst of jihadis, in a blogpost for Jihadology.net. “The reality is, [Isis] loathes that individuals are fleeing Syria for Europe. It undermines [ISIS’s] message that its self-styled Caliphate is a refuge.” Our hateful words are providing Daesh their exact wishes: for America to cut off aid to Syrian Muslims.
5. Rejecting our allies does not necessarily promote safety.
Disregarding help to what could be our allies in a war against Daesh will only lead them back to Bashar, the very dictator they are fleeing. Rather than giving them the possibility to seek help from ISIS as a form of safety against Assad, they could become allies to the U.S. and help serve as spies and spokesmen to refute enemy propaganda. We saw this in the refugee resettlement during the Cold War which helped us gain various foreign policy assets. ISIS is deeply hurt when the West accepts refugees from the Middle East because it cripples extremist propaganda. When we reject these people, they are stuck in refugee camps of severe and overcrowded conditions in the Middle East which Daesh tries to convert and radicalize potential terrorists from. Logically, keeping refugees in camps near the zones of conflict increases the terrorism in those regions, verses relocating them to outside sectors that limit the chances.
"There is no surer way to create a young terrorist than leave them to fester in an under-resourced refugee community," said Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute to USA Today. Thousands of Syrians hope to flee the terror to start a different life of peace and live the American way, contributing to our society instead of posing a possible threat in order to protect themselves from the unruly dictatorship of radical groups.
6. We have rejected refugees in the past with immense regret. Why would we do so again?
Rejecting these refugees is basically in no material disarray to American citizens, it only harbors fear and lack of knowledge about such a world issue. America turned away Jews due to security concerns during World War II in fear of Nazi spies entering our land during midst of warfare. While these concerns were valid, our cowardice taught us to face our threats without overlooking our ethical obligations. We must exemplify moral courage and withstand the permission of fear to delude our populous. Remember, the U.S. owes these refugees, and without our invasion in Iraq in 2003, al-Qaeda would cease to exist or have grown into Daesh and ISIL.
The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has claimed he will not accept any refugees in his state, “not even orphans under the age of five.” The opposing governors, most of whom encouraged the invasion of Iraq, believed it was necessary for the U.S. to participate in the “War on Terror” which created the circumstances of this issue. However, they completely avoid responsibility when faced with the consequence of broken lives.
Ted Cruz calls for Christian refugees to be given special treatment. Such speculations from our governors today are not far from the racist views of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which rooted from public dissatisfaction amongst Christian Americans toward what they called “heathens.” Religion, no doubt, often plays into the structure of ethnicity. The entitlement of bigots have had deep ties in the past and present toward sly ideals of racism. Despite the fact, governors cannot actually bar refugees from their states, and upon entry refugees can move anywhere in the U.S. they please, it is unconstitutional to limit refuge to Christians as governor Cruz wishes.
The hate and stubborn ignorance of our governors in the past could have shot us in the foot many times when looking back. If we had barred refugees in the past during pressing times, we would have excluded Albert Einstein from entering the U.S. after Nazis seized his property in 1933. Consequently, without Einstein, America would have fallen behind Nazi Germany on the construction of the atomic bomb, one of this nation's greatest weapons. The truth is the U.S. has an immense amount of experience with taking in refugees; in fact, we have resettled them more than any other country. Thanks to the help of positive religious forces between churches and other nonprofit charity groups, refugees have been able to readjust and integrate into our nation with ease. So my please is let go of the fear, get your facts straight and stop forming opinions simply off word of mouth. This is not just about the future of our nation, but the future of the world.