By Tedi Rollins
Elm Staff Writer
In recent years, there has been a dialogue about refugees, specifically the refugee crisis as countries like Syria face war.
Refugees are defined by the International Rescue Committee as “men, women and children fleeing war, persecution and political upheaval who have crossed borders to seek safety in another country.”
The United States gov’t has been debating how many refugees to let into the country for a long time. Some politicians, such as former President Barack Obama, have sought to increase the number of refugees. Others fear what an increase in refugees could mean for national security.
In 2016, Michael Ignatieff, writer for the Boston Globe, said, “In four years of bloody conflict, America has given refuge to scarcely 2,000 Syrians. That’s less than the number who arrive in Germany every day.”
The underlying xenophobia in our nation is made obvious through conversations about refugees. Many citizens fear the intentions of the people who are being brought into the country. This is not a new concept.
Scott Arbeiter, writer for the New York Times, said, “In 1939, the United States turned away more than 900 Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany because of worries that some might be Nazi conspirators or Communists. More than a quarter of those refugees died in the Holocaust.”
This is proof that our refusal to assist refugees could be fatal for many. Yet, since President Donald Trump’s election, the U.S. has continued to downplay the refugee crisis around the world. According to the IRC website, “the Trump administration, citing unfounded security concerns, moved to suspend the refugee resettlement program for 120 days and slashed refugee arrivals by more than half.”
As of 2018, there will be a cap on refugee admissions at 45,000, which is an all-time low for the country. Additionally, a proposal that was recently leaked by a member of the Capitol Hill staff revealed the administration’s plan to introduce new criteria for incoming refugees: their presumed ability to successfully assimilate.
The prospect of this criteria has sparked a strong reaction from the IRC, an organization dedicated to helping and resettling refugees. In a press release from Sept. 28, the IRC said, “The strength of the U.S. resettlement program is that it offers a safe haven to the world’s most vulnerable people out of compassion, not out of self-interest. Aside from lacking a moral justification, the Administration does not offer any evidence for the need of an assimilation test.”
When people are fearing for their own safety, it seems outright selfish for the government to be concerned with reaping benefits. As a country with resources to go around, we have a duty to provide a safe place for as many refugees as possible.
Providing refugees with safety does not necessarily threaten citizens’ safety. The common argument that refugees pose a threat to national security is misguided. While terrorist attacks have been a significant fear for many Americans, particularly in the years following the attacks of 9/11, Arbeiter said, “since 2001, more than 800,000 refugees have been resettled in the U.S., and none have been convicted of an act of domestic terrorism. Compassion and security can coexist.”
The debate on whether to admit refugees into the country comes down to basic human decency. It is unjust to let thousands of people struggle for their lives while we sit idly by. As such, Trump and his administration should make it easier, not harder, for as many refugees as possible to find safety.