A constant debate of whether or not the United States should be admitting more Syrian refugees into the country has been circulating. Syrian refugee lives are just as important as American citizens lives and for this reason, the United States has a responsibility to help. The U. S. is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and can fulfill their responsibility of helping Syrian refugees by providing financial and humanitarian aid.
While it may be easier to flee to Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, whom have been hosting Syrian refugees since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, these underdeveloped countries have scarce resources. Resettling Syrian refugees in the U. S. and other wealthy countries, would be a more efficient way of helping. Contrary to opposing beliefs, admitting more Syrian refugees does not increase terrorism because the United States extensive refugee screening process. Provided that the United States aids in welcoming Syrian refugees, perhaps other major superpowers, might follow suit and offer help.
Until a solution to the Syrian conflict is found, we as human beings are responsible for helping each other during a time of such turmoil. Despite the belief that Syrian refugees are threats to U. S. security, the intense screening process for refugees is the most stringent procedure for people seeking admission to the United States which averages around 18 to 24 months and is designed to effectively mitigate any threats and help ensure the safety of American citizens (Pope).
Refugees will begin the process by registering with the U. N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR who collects their information such as biodata, (name, address, birthday, place of birth, etc. ) and biometrics (iris scans) (Pope). Through interviews refugees confirm their status and need for resettlement and, just to be extra careful, their initial information is checked again. If there any is doubt about whether an applicant poses a security risk, they will not be admitted, only strong candidates for resettlemetn will move forward to be received by the federally funded Resettlement Support Center (RSC) (Pope).
RSC collects the refugees identifying documents, creates an applicant file and compiles their information to administer biographic security checks, which begin with interagency checks. The U. S. security agencies that screen the refugees are the National Counterterrorism Center/Intelligence Community, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the State Department (Pope). During the screening searches for the individuals information, whether or not they pose a threat and if they have any connection to bad actors, or have any warrants, immigration, or criminal violations are conducted.
The DHS, also known as USCIS Fraud Detection and the National Security Directorate review Syrian cases to determine the applicant’s eligibility and credibility. The DHS interviews are conducted by USCIS Officers who are specially trained to interview refugees and collect fingerprints for a biometric check (Pope). If anything suspicious is detected from the fingerprint results, the refugees are interviewed again. If any new biographic information is detected by USCIS at the interview, refugees face more security checks and further investigation, but that rarely happens (Pope).
The Biometric security checks follow, U. S. government employees take the fingerprints and screen them against the FBI’s, DHS, and U. S. Department of Defense biometric database include information on previous suspicious immigration encounters as well as fingerprint records from Iraq and other places (Pope). The small amount of refuges that manage to make it through must complete cultural orientation classes in order to be assigned a resettlement location which is determined by the U. S. ’s NGOs (Pope).
Prior to beginning screening and resettlement, refugees are first screened by the U. S. Customs and Border Protection’s National Targeting Center Passenger and the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight Program (Pope). As if the process of gaining entry to the U. S. wasn’t difficult enough, once the refugees gain entry they must apply for a green card and this leads to even more stringent security procedures. Refugees attempting to gain entry to the U. S. are subject to the highest level of security checks than any other traveler to the United States.
If the United States can afford this lengthy, seemingly expensive process, it can afford to host refugees in search of a safe haven. Since March of 2011, over four million people have fled from Syria to neighboring countries with 4,390,439 registered in 2015 (“Syrian Arab Republic: Humanitarian Snapshot”). Currently there are 2,291,900 refugees in Turkey, 1,070,189 in Lebanon, 633,466 in Jordan, 244,527 in Iraq, 123,585 in Egypt and 26,722 in other underdeveloped countries (“Syrian Arab Republic: Humanitarian Snapshot”). The U. S. s considering resettling refugees only from the 22,427 cases of Syrian refugees who made it through UNHCR referrals and are not considering the remaining 4,368,012 Syrian refugees in need of desperate help (“Syrian Arab Republic: Humanitarian Snapshot”). So far only 2,000 Syrian refugees were approved (“Syrian Arab Republic: Humanitarian Snapshot”). Some people oppose increasing the number of refugees for fear that welcoming those in need of desperate help will somehow increase the potential of a terrorist attack.
That is not the case, in fact a terrorist would find it easier to gain entry into the U. S. through a visitor visa than to go through such an intensive screening process. The apprehension is due to an understandable fear that refugees are somehow involved with terrorist groups like ISIS. The Obama administration dismissed these concerns as discordant to American values. It is more likely that a terrorist would gain entry into the United States by passing as a tourist than go through the lengthy refugee screening process. “Obama says Syrian refugees are no bigger threat to U. S. than ‘tourists” (qtd. Boyer).
The stringent screening process that refugees are subjected to assures that U. S. refugee resettlement poses no threat to the safety of people residing in the U. S. (Boyer). Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, reassures us that “Applicants to the U. S. refugee admissions program are currently subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States” (Richard). Center for Immigration Studies Executive Director Mark Krikorian believes that “there is no reason to doubt this… they are doing their best to protect our people from harm” (Krikorian).
The real issue is not whether Syrian refugees pose a threat to the security of the United States, but the desperate need for help. The U. S. is one of the largest donors of humanitarian relief to the Syrian refugees, having donated $4. 5 billion since the conflict arose and can afford to provide such a sizable aid and is willing to help, why not admit more Syrians? More help in resettlement is essential in alleviating the political strain and humanitarian needs that hosting refugees causes to developing countries. The U. S. can continue to protect its citizens from terrorism while also continuing to welcome more Syrian refugees.
If underdeveloped countries can, then the U. S. certainly can. If the U. S helps, it will win a “moral victory” and in turn that may persuade other wealthy developed allies to help resolve the Syrian civil war and admit Syrian refugees (Long). By resettling more Syrian refugees in the U. S. other allies might be more inclined to help resolve the Syrian civil war and help by resettling Syrian refugees in their countries. Syrian refugees face many hardships and leave Syria to escape the horrors of a civil war in search of a safe haven.
Ghussoun al Hasan speaks about her reasons for leaving Syria. She recalls watching as an army killed demonstrators at a peaceful demonstration. Her brother was murdered for photographing the protest, and this was considered a “normal crime” (Jenkins). Most people do not want Syrian refugees to be admitted into the United States because of Islamophobia. The terrorist attacks in Paris resulted in the demonization of Syrian refugees as potential ISIS members, even though none of the terrorists were Syrian refugees (Jenkins).
Al Hasan struggled to reach the U. S. nd acquire a green card. Once she did her life became less difficult. Despite the stringent screening process, she was among the 1% who was admitted into the United States (Jenkins). First she had to recount why she left Syria. This included presenting the judge with painful images of her dead brother, as well as a video tape of his brutal killing. Because his death was covered by news outlets such as Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, she was able to offer evidence of his murder. There were also clips posted to YouTube by Syrian protesters that supported her claims (Jenkins).
She said, “I had to give them proof and couldn’t lie. I told [them] what happened to me…They asked about my family, where I lived in Turkey, information on my parents — everything… ” (Jenkins). Her admittance process took nearly 4 months, but it usually takes 18-24 months (Jenkins). The screening process is 21-steps that include checks, interviews, background investigations, and biometric data (Jenkins). Syrians are probably the most affected by ISIS because many primary victims are Syrians themselves, such as Ghussoun al Hasan and her brother.
For this reason the assumption that Syrian refugees are affiliated with ISIS is an irrational one. Thus, the likelihood of finding a terrorist among Syrian refugees is extremely low. In fact, registering yourself as a refugee is considered more difficult to gain entry than it would be if you were a tourist. Some people claim that terrorist will sneak in with the Syrian refugees and others claim that refugees are terrorist themselves. When Paris was attacked, fear, prejudice and Islamophobia increased. People were quick to blame Syrian refugees.
As more information was discovered, the perpetrators were found to be unrelated to Syrian refugees. But the assumptions led to several countries, including the United States, restricting the amount of Syrian refugees welcomed. Turns out, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the primary suspect of the Paris attacks, grew up in Brussels and of Moroccan descent, was affiliated with the leaders of ISIS. While the assailants had visited Syria, none were actually refugees. Bilal Hadfi, Ismael Omar Mostefai, Samy Amimour, Ibrahim Abdeslam, Salah Abdeslam, Hamza Attou, Mohamed Amri, were all French or Belgian nationals (Abrams).
In fact one of the assailants is suspected of carrying a fake Syrian passport (Abrams). Despite the lack of refugees among them, fear of refugee immigration is still prominent in the United States. Poland has actually rescinded its offer of welcoming thousands of Syrian refugees and the people in the U. K. are pushing for closed borders (Abrams). Similarly the United States has restricted the amount of refugees accepted despite the fact that Syrian refugees had nothing to do with the attacks.
Fearing people who are being murdered, in large numbers, by the same terrorist group the U. S. is fighting, is illogically inappropriate. Syrian refugees are attempting to save their lives by searching for peaceful new home and a chance at survival. Their current situation is filled with violence, why would they want to create more. Meanwhile people are turning their backs on them for fear that somehow the very people who face terrorism, from groups like ISIS, on a daily basis, are terrorist themselves. While it would be easier for Syrian refugees to flee to neighboring countries, entering these underdeveloped countreis has become harder.
Thus, they could benefit from the U. S. opening its doors to them. Lebanon specifically has been providing aid for Syrian refugees since 2011, and have welcomed over 1 million refugees because they had allowed them to enter without visas or being residents. But in January of 2015, Lebanon actually ended its open door policy for Syrians because they simply could not continue to take in such high numbers of refugees (“I Just Wanted to be Treated Like a Person”). Now there are renewal fees for residency, and refugees are detained because of their expired documents or lack thereof. “I Just Wanted to be Treated Like a Person”).
Those seeking to renew their residency must find a Lebanese sponsor and pay $200 annually, which most cannot afford because 70% live in poverty make less than 1. 90 dollars a day. One refugee called the sponsorship system a “form of slavery” (“I Just Wanted to be Treated Like a Person”). This reinforces the idea that the U. S. and other wealthy countries must further assist by increasing the number of refugees admitted because our economy is stable enough to support them (“I Just Wanted to be Treated Like a Person”).
In neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Syrian refugees face arrests and security raids in refugee settlements located (“I Just Wanted to be Treated Like a Person”). They are also exposed to labor and sexual exploitation by employers and since they lack legal status they are denied protection from authorities and fear deporation. The conditions in Syria are so harsh people are forced to withstand human rights violations to not go back. Children and women are especially vulnerable to workplace abuse.
According to a 2015 report from LAbor oragnisation (ILO) most children face bonded labor and are forced to work to help support their families. A Syrian refugee, Mahmoud, said if his 12-year-old son, Ali, didn’t work “my family [would] sleep in the streets. ” Ali has worked for the past two years, 11 hour days, fixing vehicles for $15 a week (“I Just Wanted to be Treated Like a Person”). Syrian children born in Lebanon don’t have birth certificates so they aren’t considered citizens of neither Lebanon or Syria which restricts them from accessing education.
While the Ministry of Education issued a “memorandum” to schools in 2012 to enroll Syrian students regardless of their legal status, yet some schools continue to deny children enrollment (“I Just Wanted to be Treated Like a Person”). Neighboring countries may not be the best option for Syrian refugees, since most of them are underdeveloped and need economic help yet receive little of it. By fulfilling a humane responsibility of providing aid and increasing the number of Syrian refugees admitted into the United States, the U. S. ill alleviate the burden, and other underdeveloped countries face and help improve the lives of Syrian refugees.
Syrian refugees face harder struggles in neighboring countries because of their underdeveloped-ness, thus, despite the benefit of the location, seeking refuge in the U. S. is a better option. If the United States were to increase the amount of refugees welcomed into the country, other wealthy countries would similarly follow and this would increase the amount of refugees helped. Despite contrary belief, Syrian refugees are just that, not terrorists in disguise. They pose no threat to the United States.