I am getting concerned recently about xenophobic statements regarding the acceptance of Syrian refugees. Many governors in the United States are refusing to accept refugees for fear that terrorists are sneaking within their ranks. While this is a legitimate fear, it should be known that there is a strict vetting process for refugees entering the United States. According to Paul Singer of USA Today, “The process begins in the country where refugees first register as asylum seekers – in the Middle East or Europe – and usually takes about two years. Applicants are required to tell their story, complete with education, home address, relationships, any persecution or violence they witnessed, and as much documentation as possible. And they participate in at least one face-to-face interview as part of that process, with an interviewer trained to look for discrepancies.”
This is a long, complicated process with many security checks administered by DHS to make sure that no dangerous individuals enter the country. Refugees do not simply walk into our country and settle, they have to go through this strict vetting process. Around 2,000 Syrian refugees have already entered the country and a few thousand are halfway throughout the vetting process. The State Department says, “half the Syrian refugees brought to the U.S. so far have been children, the adults are about equally split between men and women, and 2.5% are over the age of 60. Only 2% are single males of combat age.” With such a low percentage of young male refugees, the chance of them being a major threat is very low. Also it should be noted only one terrorist in the Paris attack was pretending to be a refugee while the other terrorists were European citizens.
Despite, this country being a safe haven for immigrants we have had a history of distrust for these individuals especially refugees. Before and during World War II, Americans distrusted Jewish refugees from fascist, Nazi states. They believed spies, fascists, and communists would infiltrate these refugee migrants. Also we treated Japanese Americans with disdain and interned them for fear they were spies for the Japanese. Even recently, we feared that Iraqi/Afghan refugees over the last decade may have been terrorists. However, various sources reveal that no refugee has been convicted on domestic terrorism charges.
It is simply wrong to refuse Syrians refuge and it is in a sense un-American if you do not think we should accept them. For centuries, our nation has been built around a variety of immigrants and refugees fleeing persecution and war. It is only American to open our arms to the oppressed Syrians and let them thrive in our society and contribute to the well-being of our nation. Even Lady Liberty agrees for a quote is etched on the monument stating, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Refusing refugees out of fear and racism is disagreeing with America’s values as a nation founded on freedom from tyranny. We can accept the Syrians but also at the same time be diligent in ensuring that we are safe from possible terrorists and those safeguards are currently in place.
Safeguarding ourselves from terrorists is also a constant ideological battle. They are counting on us to be ignorant and xenophobic in order to perpetuate their cause. They want to advertise the West as hypocrites so they can say we are waging a religious war on Islam and its ideas. The only way to combat these terrorists is through peace, love and understanding. I personally used to intern at a non-profit organization called the Chapel of Four Chaplains that’s mission was “unity without uniformity.” It is rooted in the story of American World War II Chaplains, who were of different faiths that gave away their lifejackets to save sailors on a sinking ship and they were last seen going down with the ship hand in hand. What is important to gather from this is that we should all work together regardless of religion, creed or race to protect the sanctity of all human life no matter the circumstances.