A Case for Syrian Refugees
Three years ago the body of three-year old Alan Kurdi washed up on the shores of Turkey. His death sparked a brief uptick of concern for Syrian refugees. Yet the outlook for them is growing worse. Bodies still wash up on Turkish shores. More Syrians find themselves displaced, and the United States just announced deeper cuts in its refugee resettlement program.
The United States can and should do more to resettle Syrian refugees. It can and should alleviate the burden this crisis causes for our allies and friends in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Europe. The United States should raise the 2019 refugee cap from 30,000 to last year’s level of 45,000 and admit 15,000 Syrian refugees. The United States should uphold its international obligations and do its part to help regional stability.
Committing to 15,000 refugees directly from Syria is lightyears ahead of the mere 44 admitted in 2018. This kind of commitment would signal to allies our willingness to uphold the international responsibilities that come with our position as a global leader. Although this number may only make a small reduction in human suffering, it would be a ‘good faith’ gesture to our allies to show our willingness to share some of the refugee burden.
By not admitting Syrian refugees, the United States may face unintended consequences. Our closed doors cast a shadow of weakness, of fear, and of hate. We fuel ISIS propaganda and support, both at home and abroad. By accepting more Syrian refugees, the United States sends a message of tolerance and acceptance.
Finally, many countries look to the United States as a leader. If the U.S. takes in more Syrian refugees, other countries are likely to follow suit. The opposite is also true, and an adverse domino effect is already taking place. In 2017, the U.S. reduced its overall refugees resettled from 97,000 to 33,000. The rest of the world did the same, resettling 103,000 refugees in 2017, down from 189,000 refugees the previous year.
The United States has already admitted roughly 20,000 Syrian refugees successfully. The screening process for incoming refugees to the U.S. is the strictest in history. They pose a minimal security threat. Adding an addition 15,000 Syrians over the next year poses no greater threat than the 30,000 refugees the U.S. is already committing to resettle from around the globe including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Myanmar, and Ukraine.
Some Americans think the word ‘refugee’ is synonymous with welfare, failed integration, and communities of crime. In fact, the United States boasts a positive history of refugee resettlement. Refugees become entrepreneurs, consumers and taxpayers, contributing to economic growth. In 2016, roughly 80 percent of refugees with short-term assistance from the International Rescue Committee’s early employment program were economically self-sufficient within six months. The cultural and economic benefits of refugee resettlement and integration far outweigh the initial costs.
It has been three years since the world collectively mourned the death of the boy on the beach. Many more like Alan Kurdi still wash up on shores and remain unnamed. How many bodies does it take for the U.S. to see that the Syrian refugee crisis is getting worse, not better? It is time for the U.S. to lift the burdens of its friends, light the way for the world, and allow 15,000 more Syrians to call our safe shores home.