A man stands five meters below what once was the surface of a city. Dwarfed by the surrounding rubble, the man points upward, as if to show where the ground once separated the streets from his shelter beneath the earth. The sun beats down on the man’s shoulders, exposing him to the munitions of friend and foe.
The city is Aleppo, Syria, the site of a battle that continues after four years. In this man’s visage is a grim realization; even underground no one is safe. With so many people like him displaced in the crossfire, it is imperative that the United States continues to offer aid and welcome refugees coming through its borders.
In 2015, an NBC poll revealed that the majority of Americans, some 56 percent, did not approve of allowing refugees to enter America fleeing the violence. The arguments against aiding Syrians through migration often stem from two sources: Islamophobia and the rhetoric of isolationism.
Though fear is a powerful tool for division, it will never be a valid excuse for denying one the right of health and safety. Further, in this instance it doesn’t really make sense.
No American terror attack in recent history has been the work of a refugee; they have come domestically, from our own citizens, or from legal immigrants. The idea of a Syrian refugee becoming motivated to commit acts of terror through Islamic radicalism should not be entertained. However in the Middle East, there is a higher probability that this may occur.
According to Amnesty International’s website, over 4.5 million Syrian refugees are located in Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. These are countries in proximity to militant terrorist organizations.
According to a 2013 study by Daniel Milton, Megan Spencer, and Michael Findley, Syrian resettlement into these countries would put them at a higher risk of radicalization through far-right Islamic propaganda; or alienation from the citizens of an adopted country, which could also breed a sentiment against the country a refugee has resettled in.
While fear is an easier motive to pick apart, the concept of isolationism is harder to address. For a large portion of our history as a nation, we tended to our own matters. Many still feel this is the best way to go about our business, but is this sustainable today?
In the past century, our humanitarian lens has broadened from taking care of our own issues to taking in the issues of our international allies and potential allies. Our policies sometimes seem contradictory; our homeless population goes largely unaddressed, yet we send aid to various countries around the globe.
It’s true that there are problems with how domestic injustices are addressed, but this cannot stop efforts to aid others. Nations are increasingly interdependent through trade and common interests, such as climate change. Whether it’s good or bad, we need each other. To turn away thousands of refugees would leave a sour taste in the mouths of other developed nations who have also opened their borders.
But how would opening our borders help the country as a whole? One reason has been touched on. In most Middle Eastern countries, Syrians are easy targets for radicalization. Outside the proximity of the Middle East, refugees could more quickly adjust to a somewhat normal life; going back to work, going to school, or becoming a homemaker. The more refugees we bring in the less people ISIS, and other organizations, have to recruit.
However, if altruistic endeavors themselves aren’t enough to persuade, how about altruism itself? That is, what are the benefits to us to tell our policy makers to continue being good people? To be utterly shallow, bringing in more refugees would make us look good in a global setting. In recent history, we have begun to thrive on altruism.
Be it your neighbor throwing a few dimes at the Feed the Children organization every month or the extraction of Indo-Chinese from Vietnam as the war waned, America and its citizens often take any chance to portray themselves as people that care for the poor and downtrodden. In all honesty, it’s an existential sham, but it has won us a good many friends in the world of international politics.
Consider the stabilization of an anti-radical Syria after this civil war is over. By taking in a large refugee population, we would look like a strong ally for a new Syria. Giving them opportunities to work and pursue higher education will, in turn, pass favorably in the eyes of this new Syrian regime. Lives saved and America saves face. Everyone wins.
Regardless of our motivations, help is needed and America is more than qualified to do that. Under the Obama Administration, thousands of refugees have been brought here to live safe and meaningful lives; this must continue as we exchange hands. In any actual way that it is spun, this is a black and white issue of morality. It doesn’t matter how we justify it, if an arm of peace can be extended to those who have lost everything it must be extended.