Posted by Eddie Bejarano on November 16, 2015 in Blog

Abbott2.jpgThe heinous terrorist attacks recently perpetrated by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL) in Paris resulted in the heart-wrenching loss of over 120 individuals. Yet again, ISIL has demonstrated to the world that it is willing to disregard human life in the name of its warped worldview.  Here in the United States, the fallout of this recent attack has been swift and robust.  Most notably, some politicians, presidential candidates, and pundits are using the recent attacks to call on the U.S. to close its doors to Syrian refugees seeking refuge from the horrid conditions in their country of origin.  Taking advantage of the current climate of fear and anger, these individuals will hope to push forward their bigoted and exclusionary policies that inappropriately conflate immigration and national security issues.    

Thus far, Governors from 16 different states, including, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin have announced that their states will not accept Syrian refugees because of security concerns. Each of them cited the recent attacks in Paris as the reason for their renewed concern for the safety of their citizens if Syrian refugees were resettled in their state. Republican presidential candidates have been equally active in asserting their renewed opposition to resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S.

Ben Carson, a leading Republican presidential candidate, called on Congress to immediately suspend all funds for programs that would allow Syrian refugees to enter the U.S. Donald Trump, also a leading Republican presidential candidate, commented, “we cannot let them into this country, period,” while Texas Senator, and GOP presidential hopeful, Ted Cruz believes that Muslim refugees from Syria should not be allowed to enter but Christians can be. 

In each instance, national security concerns are cited as the reason for wanting to bar Syrian refugees from being admitted to the U.S. This is not a new concern, but it is one that has been fervently reasserted in light of the tragic terrorist attacks in Paris, in which one of the attacks is believed to have posed as a Syrian refugee. While many individuals suggest that there is no way to properly ensure that Syrian refugees requesting resettlement in the U.S. do not pose a security risk, this claim is simply false. In fact, the U.S. institutes one of the toughest, if not the toughest, refugee resettlement programs in the world.

The refugee vetting process has multiple components that takes up to two years to complete and involves multiple domestic and international agencies, including the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), State Department, Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Terrorist Screening Center, and the National Counterterrorism Center. The process includes extensive paper applications, in-person interviews, and medical screening tests. Moreover, the U.S. only admits refugees that are referred from the UNHCR. According to the UNHCR, nearly 60 percent of Syrian refugees are women and children ages 4 and under. Finally, research shows that refugees are more likely to be employed than the U.S.-born population. 

Instead of attempting to use the current climate of fear and anger to spread false information, public officials in the U.S. should be working to ensure that the U.S. is able to answer the call of history and honor the American tradition of resettling the world’s most vulnerable population while ensuring that our security is maintained.