By Austin B. Hahn
Author’s note: Due to the global context of this article, and because the word American can pertain to those who are in Central, North, or South America, Americans are referred to as U.S. Americans.
Granting asylum to Syrian refugees has been a hot topic in the U.S. There have been concerns over ISIS sneaking in with Syrian refugees and posing a threat to national security (Gambino, et al.). The ongoing war in Syria has left more than 6.5 million people displaced (Soloman and Peçanha). President Obama has called for 10,000 refugees to be resettled in the U.S. (McCarthy). Meanwhile, Syria’s neighbors, such as Lebanon, whose refugee population has risen to 1.2 million, and Turkey, who has accepted 2 million refugees despite already having a population of 75 million, have been the most affected (Gambino, et al.). In addition, from January to October, Germany had “registered the arrival of 243,721 asylum seekers from Syria” (McCarthy).
Although media propaganda and the attacks in Paris have spiked controversy over Syrian refugees seeking asylum, counter-terrorism experts contend that “the U.S. does not face the same risks as Europe” (Yuhas). According to the Guardian, each refugee is “vetted first by the UN’s refugee agency, and then separately by officials from the State Department, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department. The process takes between 18 months and two years” (Gambino, et al.) In Europe, refugees are “fingerprinted and then allowed to reach the European mainland even if they do not have identification documents” (Gambino, et al.). The contrast between the extensive process refugees must go through in order to enter the United States and how they’re arriving in Europe draws attention to the ill-informed fears of the U.S. American public.
In a report from CNN, 31 state governors have said that they oppose accepting Syrian refugees; however, whether they accept them or not is outside of their jurisdiction and rests in the hands of the federal government. Some officials have either opposed the relocation of Syrian refugees or have asked for them to be “scrutinized as potential security threats” (Fantz and Brumfield). On the contrary, as Dr. Georgette Bennett, the founder of the Multi-faith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, points out, “Of the Syrians who have been resettled in the U.S., not a single one has been arrested for any kind of terrorist incident, and, of the hundreds of thousands of refugees resettled in the U.S., only two have ever been identified with any kind of terrorism” (“Inside the controversy”). Since 2012, 2,174 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the U.S. (Gambino, et al.).
A week ago, I received an e-mail about a petition from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works to defend and preserve the liberties in the United States. The petition challenges every presidential candidate “to stand up against bigotry and division, to oppose the exclusion of individuals from the United States on the basis of religion or nationality . . .” (“Stand against bigotry”). As some of you may know, presidential candidates, such as Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz, have expressed that they would like to implement discriminatory policies and set agendas on the basis of religion. Trump wants to bar Muslims from entering the U.S., which contradicts our nation’s long-held belief in religious freedom (Diamond). In addition, Bush and Cruz want to prioritize Christian refugees over Muslims (Gambino, et al.). In The Nation, Bush was quoted saying, “We should focus our efforts as it relates to refugees on the Christians that are being slaughtered” (Nichols). Cruz had also called for the acceptance of Christians since “there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror” (Nichols).
While I do not support any of the previously mentioned presidential candidates’ positions, I still felt conflicted about signing the petition. I would like to see my country assist those who are in an unfortunate position, but, at the same time, a substantial amount of territory in Syria is occupied by ISIS, and I want to keep my people safe. What would be the ethical thing to do? After researching this issue, I had learned about the process that refugees would have to go through, as I previously shared, and how long it would take them to come to the U.S. Based on all my research, I do not think that Syrian refugees or Muslims pose a threat to our nation.
If ISIS is an organized militant group, then they know that there are other ways to enter the U.S. that don’t require going through the UN’s refugee agency, the State Department, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Defense Department. Moreover, I am appalled that a presidential candidate in my country would even consider denying refugees entry to the U.S. based on their religion as a viable solution. Terrorism doesn’t have a religion.
On some final notes, I understand that fearmongering done by the media can provoke irrational fears, but other countries with less land have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees, and we’re having a problem with just ten thousand? We, as U.S. Americans, have let a few criminals, who are portrayed in the media, represent the majority of a cultural group. We need to take back our power. I believe that if any one of us were in the same situation with our families and friends as the Syrian refugees are in today, you would hope that you could seek asylum somewhere. We are all born from our mother’s womb. We are all somebody’s baby. We were all once children. We have all come from a culture and a nation of people, but one thing remains universal: we cannot choose where we are born, but we can choose where we want to go.
To anyone who’s reading this right now, I ask you to embrace this knowledge, to realize that you could be at the mercy of sudden life events that are beyond your control, and to have compassion for these human beings. Go to Google. Type in “Syrian refugees.” Click on “Images.” When you see these people, I hope you can see a part of yourself in them. If you care, then please join me by signing this petition: https://www.change.org/p/all-candidates-running-for-president-stand-against-bigotry-and-exclusionary-policies-and-commit-to-equality-for-all-americans/c. As of right now, while I write this, only 615 people need to sign this petition. Let’s reach 15,000 before New Year’s. If you are also a supporter, but the petition is no longer available to sign, then please reblog or forward this to a friend or a family member. This is not an attempt to gain popularity, but an effort to disperse information. When we share new information, we are able to help people transform how they think, and, in doing so, we transform our world. Please take part in spreading the word.
“Inside the controversy of offering Syrian refugees asylum in the U.S.” PIX11. The CW, 24 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.
“Stand against bigotry and exclusionary policies, and commit to equality for all Americans.” Change.org. ACLU, n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
Diamond, Jeremy. “Donald Trump: Ban all Muslim travel to U.S.” CNN politics. CNN, 12 Dec. 2015. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.
Fantz, Ashley, and Ben Brumfield. “More than half the nation’s governors say Syrian refugees not welcome.” CNN. CNN, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.
Gambino, Lauren, et al. “Syrian refugees in America: separating fact from fiction in the debate.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 21. Dec. 2015.
McCarthy, Tom. “Obama calls on US to resettle ‘at least 10,000’ Syrian refugees in 2016 fiscal year.” The Guardian. The Guardian, 10 Sep. 2015. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.
Nichols, John. “Bush and Cruz Want to Use Religious Tests to Bar Refugees From the US.” The Nation. The Nation, 17 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.
Soloman, Ben C., and Sergio Peçanha. “The Refugees.” New York Times. New York Times, n.d. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.
Yuhas, Alan. “Should Americans fear an attack like those in Paris?” The Guardian. The Guardian, 18 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.