Briefly summarized: America’s obligation to Syrian refugees

Samantha D’Alonzo, Illana Hill, and Emilia Charno

America, for years thought of as an immigrant oasis for people looking to find a better life is now facing one of its most controversial and complicated decisions in the modern world.

In March 2011, anti-government uprisings began in Syria.  These once peaceful protests escalated into something that is beyond control and, since 2011, 7.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced with 3.8 million of these Syrians fleeing the country.  Many European countries are being forced to accept these Syrians into their borders due to close proximity to Syria, but many European nations are not capable of handling large numbers of refugees.

As a global power, it is impossible for America to sit idly as the situation unfolds.  For this reason, President Obama has proposed that America take in 10,000 refugees, a huge increase from last year’s number of 1,500 refugees.  This proposal has faced much hesitation because of fear of possible terrorism, as well as other negative consequences.

Since the devastating 9/11 attacks, America’s views on terrorism, security, and the Middle East have drastically changed.  For example, the Patriot Act, put into effect on Oct. 26, 2001, allows law enforcement agencies to search private information with fewer restrictions.  The Patriot Act has supposedly helped intercept numerous acts of terrorism, but its main dissenters arguing that America’s post 9/11 policies have fostered global hostility and invaded the privacy of innocent Americans.  This fear of terrorism is perhaps the largest reason the American government does not want to accept large numbers of refugees.

There are, however, many factors the American government, and the American people, must consider before outright rejecting Syrian refugees.  In a way, accepting Syrian refugees may be the best way to prevent growing threats of terrorism in the Middle East.

For starters, it is not fair to label every Syrian refugee a terrorist and therefore accept no one at all. It does not appear as though America is planning on doing this.  The American public just wants to see a process that could help separate potential terrorists from those desperately seeking help.

“When people dismiss Syrian refugees as being terrorists they’re denying several facts inherent about these refugees. They have to be extraordinarily resillient to actually make it here, they have to be ambitious enough to decide they want to travel thousands of miles to better their lives, and they have to be hard-working to travel this far,” said senior Maxwell Silverstein.

The Obama Administration has stated that all Syrian refugees entering the country will undergo a thorough background check conducted by the United Nations, in addition to filing a large amount of paperwork before relocating to America.  Although there are some negative aspects to these checks, like the time and effort they take to complete and the uncertainty of their findings, some form of an inspection on refugees is a necessity and is therefore being implemented.

Second, America has been perceived as a safe haven for the endangered and opportunity-seeking people in need.  On the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of our country, a poem reads “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  If we reject the Syrians refugees in need, we are forgetting one of the most important values of our country.   While Syrians are in immediate danger, the stress that their displacement puts on the globe, especially Europe, is potentially catastrophic.

“We are a nation that has continuously attempted to dedicate itself to freedom and opportunity. If we don’t obey the principles our forefathers set out to accomplish 250 years ago, then we can’t say to have truly made progress since then,” said junior Christian Hill.

To a certain extent, America has a moral obligation to help not only the refugees, but also the countries being negatively impacted by their flight.  This obligation is a huge reason to help the refugees, who are in desperate need of a place to relocate and live without having to fear for their lives.  It would shine a negative light on America if the country turned their cheek and refused to help the refugees.  If America denies help in this situation, America’s global image may take a hit.

Lastly, America has to accept Syrian refugees for practical purposes.  Letting refugees into the nation will help to diffuse tensions nationwide, as the European Union cannot handle the increasing numbers of refugees entering their countries.  Most importantly, refugees will have another outlet to find stability and solace.

Calling on America to fulfill its moral obligation to help Syrian refugees by accepting them into the country is a tall order.  Nonetheless, America must answer the call to accept Syrian refugees and do its part in helping these huddled masses.