By Katie Ellington, News Editor
It didn’t take them long. After the tragic attacks in France that cost at least 129 people their lives, politicians across the United States began saying that, in the interest of national security; we should no longer allow Syrian refugees to enter the United States. More than 30 governors have now declared their states Syrian refugee-free zones. And while I appreciate the desire to keep me, my community and our nation safe, blocking those in need from entering the United States is the wrong way to do it.
I understand why they reacted this way. The world was shocked after what happened in Paris on Friday; I was shocked and saddened by it. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the atrocity and a Syrian passport indicates that at least one Syrian refugee was involved. But that doesn’t mean that all Syrians are terrorists; most of the Syrian refugees are just ordinary people. They have left their homeland with nothing but what they can carry. They left behind their families, their homes, everything familiar. They have no home, few connections and no way to provide for their children. They are poor and hungry and tired. All they want is a home and a life in which they can feel safe. Are these the people we should be turning away? In denying the innocent refugee a safe place, we deny compassion and decency, replacing them with a fearful view of the world that sees the issue only through our own eyes.
Both Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz have suggested that the U.S. prioritize Christian refugees who are being persecuted by ISIS. I don’t think this is fair. Not because I don’t want to protect Christians, but because “legalizing” the process to favor Christian refugees is discrimination to those who don’t share our faith. Do the Syrian Christians suffer more than the rest? Maybe. I can’t claim to know their experiences. But only letting Christians in is the wrong approach. It’s intolerant. It’s telling people “unless your religion matches my religion, supposedly based in Christ’s love, I’m not going to help you.” Christ won the lost and broken to a renewed faith by caring about them. Many of us are Christians now because were blessed to be born in Christian homes. Can we expect Muslims, Buddhists, atheists or pantheists to ever consider the legitimacy of our faith if we use it as an excuse to only protect our own?
Syrian refugees have lost so much because of the conflict in their nation.
The primary reason that these governors have given for barring Syrian refugees is the issue of security. After all, at least one of the terrorists who killed people in the Paris attacks snuck into the country with a group of refugees. And while refugees have flooded Europe by the thousands these past few months, sneaking into the US would be much more difficult. The journey to America is a much slower and more laborious process. They aren’t coming in droves. In order to get to the United States, refugees have to cross the Atlantic Ocean, then go through a screening process and undergo security checks. It’s much easier to monitor who enters our country from the east, unlike many European nations whose borders are either open or have few natural boundaries to keep people out. So in accepting refugees, we have a far greater degree of control. And while the concern that terrorists will try to enter the nation is valid, it’s also worth considering that more Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by other Americans than by jihadists. According to a Washington research center, “white supremacists, anti-government fanatics and other non- Muslim extremists” have killed almost twice as many people as radical Muslims since 9/11. Not to mention that Syrian refugees are unlikely to be that fond of radical terrorism.
Syrian refugees have lost so much because of the conflict in their nation. Many of them likely hate ISIS as much as we do. If they come here, their presence will remind people here of the evils that ISIS has perpetrated. Their children will grow up in a nation that teaches morality and acceptance, instead of being brainwashed by militant groups.
We say we want to fight terrorism. We agree that ISIS is evil and silently pride ourselves on our moral superiority. We’re fine with killing members of terrorist organizations and rejoice when we foil their plans. Everyone wants the glory of conquering darkness, but who will care for the innocent people who are helpless because of it? That’s harder. It garners less attention. And with our fears for our own safety and an ocean separating us from these people, it’s easy to simply ignore them. Let Europe take care of it. But if we honestly say we hate terrorism, we need to love the people the terrorists forget about–their own people, who they view as nothing more than unavoidable casualties of war.
There’s no easy answer to this problem. And I know that there are risks. Many of the refugees are young men, prime targets for ISIS recruitment. Anyone who enters our country should be subject to background checks and questioning. Our government should have the ability to say “no” to anyone who could be a threat. But rejecting the entire nation of Syria means rejecting innocent people. I hope that we can find a way around it.