Steps to bar refugees from U.S. counterproductive
State and federal officials who have rushed to close off the doors on refugees are making hasty and potentially counterproductive decisions.
A closer look at the events in Paris, and clearer understanding of the U.S. refugee screening process, would have alleviated concerns. Syrian refugees do not pose a threat to the U.S. On the contrary, admission of Syrian refugees would actually help in the fight against ISIS.
Since 1980, the U.S. has accepted more than 3 million refugees – including hundreds of thousands from the Middle East. Throughout that time, not one refugee committed an act of terrorism in the U.S. The multi-layered, multi-agency, multiple-year vetting process works in weeding out terrorists.
Those seeking a moratorium on Syrian admissions are failing to distinguish between the strong U.S. refugee screening system and the weak European asylum system. In Europe, a Syrian can simply show up in a country, apply for asylum and – without having yet received it – travel to France relatively unhindered.
The U.S. refugee process is much different. Refugees must receive designation by trained U.N. refugee screeners, and only then undergo extensive vetting and background checks by the U.S. We accept only the most vulnerable refugees, which means that most are not referred to the U.S. for resettlement. The U.S. was referred 22,000 Syrians in 2015.
Quite simply, the terrorist in Paris with the fake Syrian passport never would not have been awarded refugee status in the U.S. He arrived in Europe through Greece and went on to claim asylum. He was never awarded refugee status by the U.N. or any government. He would not have made it through the U.S.’s rigorous and comprehensive processing system. The other attackers were French and Belgian nationals. The Paris tragedy implies nothing at all about the risk of resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S.
Far from posing a threat to America’s safety, admitting Syrian refugees into the U.S. provides us with allies, intelligence and counterprogramming to ISIS propaganda, reducing opportunities for radicalization.
Syrian Muslim refugees are considered traitors to the radical Islamic cause. Offering refuge to people in desperate need, and integrating them into our society, is an excellent way to earn gratitude, loyalty and cooperation in the fight against ISIS.
Closing our borders and rejecting refugees help ISIS. They will use our disregard for the fate of Syrian refugees as proof of our antagonism to Islam. Even more dangerously, turning away refugees will leave thousands of downtrodden, dispossessed people stranded in the sort of squalid, underfunded refugee camps that have historically proven to be fertile grounds for radicalization and terrorist recruitment. Opening our doors to refugees won’t let terrorists in, but keeping them shut will contribute to the conditions that feed the terrorist threat.
Michigan has such a vibrant Middle Eastern community. The state has the highest percentage of Middle Eastern residents in the nation, which would be a great asset in helping Syrian refugees integrate smoothly into American life.
Americans must demonstrate global leadership and moral courage. Abandoning Syrian refugee resettlement now is an affront to American ideal, weakening our claim to moral authority and playing directly into the hands our enemies.
Matthew la Corte is a research analyst at the Washington-based libertarian think tank the Niskanen Center. He specializes in immigration policy.