Nonprofit Voice | A Case for Syrian Resettlement, by New American Pathways
I spent last weekend glued to the television and radio, listening to the terrible news of the attack on Paris on Friday, November 13. I am horrified by the brutality of those attacks. I cannot imagine the terror people felt during these attacks and the loss felt in its aftermath. I, like many of you, am consumed with feelings of anger and fear. I know it is this anger and fear that has driven some people, including three Presidential candidates, to advocate closing our country’s resettlement program to Syrian refugees or limiting the program to Syrian Christians only.
When we think about the horrible events of Friday in Paris, we should remember that Syrians are living with that kind of violence and brutality every day. The Syrian Observatory on Human Rights lists the number of confirmed deaths in the Syrian civil war as 176,846, but other estimates indicate that the number could be twice that high. The situation in Syria is so desperate that 4 million people have fled the country since fighting began and another 8 million have been dislocated within the country. ISIS has been linked to the murder of tens of thousands, including Muslims and Christians in Syria and Iraq. The Syrian Civil War, the threat of ISIS, and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have helped to create a global refugee crisis. The number of forcibly dislocated people in world today is greater than any time since World War II.
When we are threatened, isolation is a natural response, but closing the U.S. resettlement program to Syrian refugees or making it a program which discriminates on the basis of religion will not make us safer; in fact, it could put us at even greater risk.
The massive flight of Syrian refugees has put considerable strain on countries in the region. Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have heroically taken in millions of refugees. But these small countries have limited capacity and, as the crisis rages on, a continued onslaught of refugees could be destabilizing. As it is becoming more difficult to access humanitarian support within the region, refugees are making the perilous journey to Europe in incredibly large numbers. Our European allies are struggling to create and implement common security and humanitarian policies to deal with this influx, as we have all seen recently in the news.
If we continue to let our allies in the Middle East and Europe bear the brunt of this humanitarian crisis, we will continue to see instability and chaos, which is an environment in which groups like ISIS thrive. Offering resettlement to Syrian and other refugees from the Middle East is one important way that we can support and strengthen our allies in the Middle East and Europe.
The U.S. proposal to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016 is modest, but it opens the door to a long-term process that can make a substantial impact. Unlike the Middle East and Europe, the U.S. does not have hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees at its border seeking immediate humanitarian assistance. Instead, we are able to set an annual ceiling for refugee arrivals and conduct a thorough interview, health screening, and security screening process that brings refugees in thoughtfully and carefully. The 50 Syrian refugees who have already been resettled by New American Pathways are made up of families who are extremely grateful to have a safe environment for their children. These families are eager to start work, become self-sufficient, and help welcome the next family.
People look to the U.S., as the world’s most powerful nation, for leadership in a time of crisis. ISIS and other terrorist groups do not discriminate in their barbarism and cruelty. They are enslaving, maiming, and killing Christians, Muslims, and others alike. If we want to earn the hearts and minds of people, we must not discriminate in our compassion. We are at our best when we strive to live up to our American ideals. We are a nation of immigrants founded on the principals of democracy and freedom. By welcoming those who have fled tyranny, persecution, intolerance and genocide, we offer hope and an alternative to oppression.
Paedia Mixon is CEO of New American Pathways, a full-service organization that helps Georgia’s refugees establish secure, productive, self-sufficient lives. This piece originally appeared on New American Pathway’s Thought Leadership Corner.