As Syrian refugees continue to flood into Europe, many human rights activists have charged the United States with failing to adequately do its part in welcoming refugees during this humanitarian crisis.
After the Obama administration faced public backlash from a number of presidential hopefuls critical of the president’s plan to accept only 10,000 Syrian refugees, Secretary of State John Kerry disclosed that the U.S. will accept an additional 30,000 refugees from multiple countries over the next two years, raising the nation’s total from 70,000 to 100,000 in 2017.
To both critics and activists alike, this new proposition is a meager improvement at best. It pales in comparison to the potential one million Syrian refugees Germany will accept by this year’s end. In fact, a letter signed by several former members of the Obama administration suggested that the U.S. should take in no less than 100,000 Syrian refugees alone.
Although it’s easy to blame the country’s lackluster response to this crisis on both Kerry and Obama, perhaps that would be short-sighted. Therefore, it might be a show of good faith to consider why these leaders have failed to meet the noble demands of activists who desire that the U.S. lead the world during this catastrophe.
Historically, under Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, the U.S. has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees from all over the world. Kerry has cited post-9/11 screening requirements for refugees as well as the lack of congressional funding as reasons for the nation’s inability to embrace more asylum-seeking Syrians.
While it is certainly true that the additional screening efforts instituted after 9/11 complicate entry to the U.S., what is more disturbing is the opposition by Congress to supply the necessary funds to aid as many displaced Syrians as possible.
“We have been reviewing the current security vetting procedures for a number of months,” said New York Republican Representative Peter King, chair of the Homeland Security Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee at a hearing in June. “I have a number of concerns, not the least of which is the lack of on-the-ground intelligence necessary to identify terror links.”
Although there is some legitimacy to concerns about terrorist organizations like ISIS attempting to capitalize on a humanitarian crisis in order to gain access to the U.S., fear-mongering politicians have used such a possibility to justify xenophobia and economic austerity. For example, Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, who is opposed to taking in more refugees, remarked that 90 percent of Middle-Eastern refugees currently living in America are on food stamps and 70 percent are receiving free healthcare.
It’s time to rethink our priorities when one of the primary apprehensions against providing asylum for suffering humans is the assumption that a large portion of them will be placed on welfare upon arriving to America.
It’s disheartening to see welfare-phobic politicians place money ahead of human life. At the end of the day, will we as a nation allow greed to be prioritized above our moral obligation to help those in need?
The fact is, despite concerns over welfare, allowing in an increased number of Syrian refugees could potentially help expand the U.S. economy through the creation of more jobs and an increase in the consumption of goods. Not only is it morally imperative that the United States take in more Syrian refugees than what is currently being proposed, but it is also an opportunity to be a world leader in helping to solve the largest refugee crisis since World War II while conceivably benefiting our own economy.
Matthew Brotz is a sophomore majoring in philosophy.