America’s Role in the Syrian Refugee Crisis

The attacks on Paris resulted in 130 deaths and 368 injured. And despite the left’s denial, the refugee crisis is inherently connected to the incident. Two of the perpetrators had entered Europe through Greece, posing as refugees. ISIS is not above exploiting the public’s sympathy for people in genuine crisis. Moving forward, the safety of Americans should be the United States’ priority. Yet, we can accomplish such while maintaining our human duty to provide shelter for Syrian refugees. Slamming the door shut on a distressed people is unequivocally un-American.

One of the main questions revolving around the refugee crisis is whose responsibility it is to take these people in. Wealthier, western countries like the US certainly have a responsibility to give shelter to refugees flowing from Syria’s borders. However, Muslim countries need to bear the burden as well.  Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have done so already, taking in a combined 4.8 million refugees. But Saudi Arabia and Iran, two of the more developed nations in the Middle East, have taken in a none as of recent. Qatar, the country with the second highest level of living in the Middle East, has accepted just 42 refugees. It’s not enough for the United States and its allies to diplomatically ask these countries to share the burden. President Obama needs to take a stand and back up refuge expectations with economic sanctions and international condemnation. Perhaps showing some strength in this regard would aid his weak foreign policy record.

When we do admit these people, we must do so safely. Though the vast majority of the 10,000 refugees the US has pledged to take in are peaceful, only a few terrorists are needed to wreak havoc. It’s certainly better to be safe than sorry. Syrian refugees are not potential dangers because they’re Muslim, but because they come from a war-torn country. And since they’re from such an unstable environment, the very people refugees are fleeing from can easily hide among their ranks, as shown by two of the Paris attackers. Therefore, the system needs to be absolutely airtight. Now, it’s important to note that the American screening process for refugees is much more rigorous than European models, but that does not discount the fact that we oftentimes have absolutely no information on refugees coming from the region. FBI Director James Comey, when testifying before Congress in October, stated, “If someone has not made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interests reflected in our databases, we can query our databases until the cows come home but nothing will show up because we have no record of that person.” In light of this, Congress, showing a surprising flash of reason, passed a bipartisan bill to pause the inflow of refugees. This temporary pause is needed for gathering some information on individuals coming in and fixing any cracks in our current system. There should be a database containing all incoming refugees. Since the refugees would not immediately be American citizens, this would be perfectly legal and reasonable, unlike Trump’s plan of blocking all Muslim immigration and investigating mosques.

But how exactly do we treat these people once they’re within our borders? France provides an example of how not to smoothly settle Muslim immigrants or refugees into society. France’s Islamophobia has ostracized their Muslim neighbors. When French Muslims are cooped up in separate neighborhoods, given little access to economic mobility, and are not properly welcomed into French society, radicalized individuals spring up. John Horgan, a psychologist at UMass-Lowell, said that the “People who join these [terrorist] groups are trying to find a path.” These people are often castaways from society with nowhere to turn. Therefore, radicals are not so much drawn to their ends by Islam, but rather by the failure of inclusion. Because of these conditions, about 1,000 French nationals have joined ISIS. These people either relocate to create chaos in the Middle East or remain to form dangerous homegrown terrorist cells. In fact, four of the Paris attackers were French nationals. We should thus work to fully integrate refugees into American society through both governmental and communal measures. We should not put them into cramped camps, like many Eastern European countries have done, as these horrifically inhumane grounds breed radicalization. America should truly be a melting pot. Refugees should be encouraged to take on American values while maintaining parts of their cultural identity that make them unique. In such, they become tethered to the United States and relinquish any chance of becoming radicalized. Instead of being Muslims, they become Muslim Americans. Instead of being a collection of fractured and self-segregated groups, America needs to be one.

America and its allies need to find the proper balance between compassion and safety. The crisis needs to be treated by the entire world accordingly, and every nation has to make a contribution if possible. It is also paramount that we avoid both extremes for the crisis at home. Shutting down the refugee program because of American Islamophobia is simply inhumane. And yet, letting in all refugees without at least taking a short pause to make sure our system is as airtight as it can be, is unsafe. And finally, once these innocent people are within our protection, we must embrace them as our fellow men and make sure that their humanity is valued. Never forget, however, to take a step back and remember what’s important. The humanity of Syrian refugees cannot be lost in political banter. These are people. Whatever action we take will greatly affect both refugee and American alike.

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