Blocking Refugees Isn't the Answer
Shutting our borders to Syrian refugees is a simpleminded solution to terrorist attacks that might ultimately be self-defeating.
In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, governors from more than half the U.S. states announced they would stop welcoming Syrian refugees. In a letter Monday to congressional leaders, Gov. Rick Scott said the state won’t help relocate up to 425 Syrian refugees planned to be resettled in Florida.
Other politicians joined the rush to sound tough on terrorism. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican presidential contender, suggested Sunday on CNN that the U.S. should only accept Christian refugees from Syria.
A blanket ban on Syrian refugees — or a religious litmus test — only plays into the hands of the terrorists behind the Paris attacks, members of the extremist group known as ISIS. The group’s march sent millions fleeing Syria, showing the vast majority of Muslim people don’t want to live under such a nihilistic and destructive ideology.
As details are still being learned about the Paris attacks, the focus has been on an attacker found with a Syrian passport. Yet at least four of the eight attackers are believed to be French, as is the suspected mastermind of the attacks.
The United States and countries around the world must redouble efforts to identify and eliminate terror networks within their borders. But it is both legally questionable and logistically impossible for U.S. governors to block Syrian refugees from entering their states. More importantly, it is a self-defeating approach.
Branding all Muslims as terrorists only makes members of their communities more distrustful of working with authorities, complicating efforts to disrupt legitimate terror plots. Marginalizing these communities also creates conditions under which international terrorists can better recruit residents of other countries.
The overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees want the same thing as any of us would: a better life for their families. While European countries struggle with being able to handle and screen mass groups of refugees fleeing across their borders, the issues are very different with the far smaller group of refugees seeking to be relocated in the U.S.
The resettlement process to the U.S. can take as long as two years, as the McClatchy D.C. bureau reported. Refugees undergo a thorough vetting process that includes agencies such as the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.
While it would be hard for someone with connections to terrorism to make it through that process, nothing is impossible. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another GOP presidential contender, warned Sunday on ABC that the country “can have a thousand people come in and 999 of them are just poor people fleeing oppression and violence” but one could be an ISIS fighter.
Yet the country already faces that kind of problem with tourists coming to our country or immigrants entering our borders illegally. We need comprehensive fixes to these issues — such as an immigration reform and border security measure that Rubio supported before abandoning it for the sake of politics.
The United States is a country built on immigration. We shouldn’t open the borders to anyone, but have a special duty to help those escaping persecution. At the same times our actions in Iraq and Syria have allowed the rise of ISIS, we have shirked our responsibility as a world leader to help Syrian refugees seeking safety and security.
Our country as a whole has taken in fewer than 2,000 Syrian refugees and Florida has accepted about 100 refugees, according to federal figures. While reexamining the refugee program in the wake of the Paris attacks would certainly be appropriate, turning away all refugees won’t stop terrorist attacks — and might actually create the conditions for more home-grown radicalism.
Reprinted from the Panama City News Herald
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