Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why It Doesn't Make Sense to Block Syrian Refugess from the U.S.

Humanitarian crises perpetrated by scourges of the earth are an unfortunate, bleak reality. The lack of freedom and liberties uproot people from their homes and make it all the more difficult to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. The latest humanitarian crisis that has been receiving considerable attention from the media is the Syrian crisis. Since March 2011, Syria has experienced a sectarian civil war. While the inhumanity behind the death tool is regrettably not anything new, Syrians citizens fleeing the Syrian nation in droves is a more recent development. The European Commission is calling the Syrian civil war the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII. As of date, the crisis has created about 4.3 million refugees. Europe has dealt with its fair share of headache of trying to admit Syrian refugees, and now it looks like it's America's turn. In light of the recent ISIS attack in France, the United States has become much more hesitant in admitting Syrian refugees. A majority of governors said they would refuse to admit Syrian refugees. Forgetting that such immigration issues are under the purview of the federal government for a moment, it makes me question whether we should let in Syrian refugees or institute a moratorium in the hopes we can prevent an attack like the one in France.

As has been implied, the major concern about letting in Syrian refugees is a national security concern. For critics of admitting refugees, particularly many of the Republican presidential candidates, they are worried that ISIS soldiers will pose as refugees and work their way into the country to launch a terrorist attack. 13 percent of Syrian refugees are sympathetic towards ISIS, which can be perceived as reasonable cause for this concern. Much like with hyperbolic claims made about mass shootings in this country, we have to make sure that we properly assess the data to make sure we understand the risk.

I have to ask what logical sense it would be for a terrorist from ISIS [or any other agency] to sneak in as a refugee. It takes one to two years for refugees to get processed before they ever step foot on American soil. And none of that counts the two-year vetting process from the UN High Commissioner from Refugees prior to being referred to the United States. The security check for a refugee is the most stringent type for anyone entering the United States, which is in contrast to Europe's more lax refugee process. It would be much easier for a potential ISIS terrorist to enter this country with a student visa, a business visa, a travel visa, or even by crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.

The U.S. only accepted 2,148 Syrian refugees, or 0.05 percent of all Syrian refugees (the vast majority of whom are women and children), since the crisis began. Obama is looking to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this upcoming year. Since 9-11, there have been 785,000 refugees admitted to the United States. Out of that number, only 12 refugees have been removed or arrested due to terrorism charges. Based on post 9-11 refugee data, the probability that a refugee would be involved with a terrorist organization is .001%. More to the point, none of the refugees have made a terrorist attack on American soil. The probability of even just one ISIS member attacking through the manipulation of the refugee system is so small that it is hardly worth halting the refugee program. A defense policy specialist from the Rand Corporation pointed out that in most cases, "a would-be terrorist's refugee status had little or nothing to do with their radicalization and shift to terrorism." Shutting out thousands of refugees who legitimately need help in the minutest of chances that you might stop one terrorist is nonsensical.

As limited research shows (e.g., Findley et al., 2013Choi and Saleyhan, 2013; Ekey, 2008), having refugees stay in refugee camps instead of finding them countries where they can live only exacerbates the issue. Europe will have to deal with this issue differently since the conditions across the Atlantic have encouraged greater Islamic radicalization, but at least for the United States, there isn't a good reason to discontinue admitting Syrian refugees. Other countries, such as Jordan, Turkey (also see here), and Lebanon, are much smaller countries that have admitted way more refugees than the United States, and in spite of some short-term shock, their economies have been adjusting (although keep in mind that given the high refugee-to-general population ratio in Lebanon, it has put certain unique strains on Lebanon that would not be experienced in the United States).

There is no reason to believe that refugees would not be of economic benefit in the United States. The "we don't have enough jobs for the refugees" is another variation of the argument that anti-immigration pundits use that is based on the fallacy that the economy is a fixed pie. Immigrants are not a fiscal drain. If anything, immigration has been a net gain for the United States economy, and the same thing should happen when the U.S. government admits more Syrian refugees. Even with short-term adjustments to the labor market, the long-term economic benefits outweigh the upfront costs.

Ever since its debacle with not taking in Jewish refugees back in 1939, the United States has taken it as more of a moral imperative to act as a exemplar and actually take in refugees instead of give into isolationist tendencies. 3.75 million refugees admitted since 1975 (not to mention all the other ones from earlier), and the American economy hasn't imploded because it took in too many refugees. Barring a legitimate national security, crime, or health concern, there is no reason we shouldn't help by admitting some more Syrian refugees.

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