By Ashley Berry, Liberal Arts – Political Science Major
The refugee crisis is one that has been on the forefront of people’s minds recently. Although the crisis of the refugees has been going on for much longer, it is just since the November 13th terror attacks in Paris that everyone has started to pay attention. The attacks, which the Islamic State took responsibility for, has raised questions about whether or not it is safe to accept refugees from Iraq and Syria.
From Facebook news feeds to major news organizations to presidential candidates, everyone seems to have an opinion on what the course of action should be regarding the refugees. The problem is that most people formulate these opinions with very few facts, if any. Most people are making their decisions based on fear. When we are talking about the fate of millions of innocent people, fear can not play into decision making.
Most of the people who are against the United States accepting refugees are doing so based on reasons that they probably think are legitimate. However, they are not legitimate reasons at all. They are fallacious reasons that people are clinging to because they are afraid.
Let us put fear aside and explore some actual facts that will hopefully change people’s mindsets. There have been 745,000 refugees that have been settled in the United States since 9/11, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Only two of these people have been charged with crimes related to terrorism; specifically, for providing funds for terrorist organizations overseas, not in the United States. That is 774,998 innocent people who know a life of peace, freedom, and opportunity instead of one of violence and destruction. Those innocent lives saved are most certainly worth any risk.
Another rumor that has been used for justification for anti-refugee sentiments is the Tsarnaev brothers, who masterminded the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Firstly, the Tsarnaev brothers were not refugees. They were the children of an asylum seeker. This is very different from a refugee. While they both are fleeing from their home countries from fear of persecution, there are some important distinctions. Asylum seekers arrive in the country they choose and apply for asylum. Once here, under international law, they cannot be sent back to their home country if there is legitimate threat of persecution.
The path to becoming a refugee is very different. First, they have to be designated by a refugee by the United Nations. This is most often done in a designated refugee camp. They only give refugee status to the most vulnerable people who have almost no chance of being able to safely return home. It can take between 18 and 24 months for a person to be admitted as a refugee. They do not just grant refugee status on a whim. It is a long process in which many factors are taken into consideration. Also, most of these refugees are women, children, or the elderly. Only two percent are males that are single and of combat age. Most of these people are of a demographic we would consider to be most vulnerable and in desperate need of assistance.
Sixty-eight people have been indicted in the United States for allegedly having ties to the Islamic State. Fifty-five of these people were United States citizens. Forty-four of these people were actually born in America, four were born in Uzbekistan, six were born in Bosnia, two were born in Sudan, and three were born in Somalia.
So the people that think that we will somehow reduce terror threats by refusing the refugees are mistaken. If the Islamic State wants to unleash acts of terror on U.S. soil, they will do it. One of their biggest recruitment tools is social media, so it is significantly more likely that any act of terror is perpetrated by a United States citizen who has been radicalized from afar.
Refusing to accept refugees, or imposing impossible security restrictions on the refugees, is only playing into the Islamic State’s agenda. The United States refusing refugees will be the Islamic State’s greatest recruiting tool. They want Muslims to believe that they will never have a place in Western countries. That we are too different to live together in peace. The Islamic State wants to create the perfect caliphate. They are, like many before them, hoping to create their own sovereign nation and live in their idealistic Islamic conditions. Because they are a small marginalized group, usually with few resources, they resort to terror. Terrorism is only an extremely effective tactic, used by many marginalized groups before them. By choosing fear over humanity we are only helping these barbarians and harming ourselves.
It is understandable: no one wants to go through a terrorist attack. We are all afraid. No one wants innocent people to lose their lives. But what about the millions of innocent people who have been displaced from their countries? These people are fleeing from the same terror we are so afraid of and so quick to condemn. In fact they have seen more violence from the Islamic State than any other group of people. It is ridiculous that someone’s life is worthless just because they’re from a different country or because their skin is a little darker. Regardless of what religion they practice, what color their skin is or where they come from, they are still humans. They have suffered immensely, more than we can ever imagine. While we are worried about the possibility of terror attacks, these people are living in that nightmare. They have endured continuous, unspeakable violence – the very same violence we are so afraid of in the United States. Isn’t the United States of America supposed to be the land of the refugees? A beacon of hope and opportunity to the lost and downtrodden?
Apparently that is in the past. The same kindness that was once shown to our ancestors when we were refugees has been lost. Now we have become a country of self-serving, egocentric hypocrites.