Syrian refugee crisis: What is America’s responsibility? (Opinon)


The United States of America has been facing a moral dilemma over the past three years as Syrian refugees have fled their war-ravaged nation in search of sanctuary. Millions of refugees have flooded Europe, and now the question is: what is our responsibility in all of this? We aren’t the only nation struggling to answer this question. This is a global issue with the potential to be a game changer in foreign relations.

Many insist that the United States has a moral obligation to assist other countries in hosting Syrian refugees. The jarring photos taken of Syrian refugees have stirred hearts and inspired humanitarian efforts worldwide to take on this cause.

Courtesy of UK News: Migrants arrive on the beach at Psalidi near Kos Town, Greece.
Courtesy of UK News: Migrants arrive on the beach at Psalidi near Kos Town, Greece.
Courtesy Boston NPR: Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are struggling to find basic supplies of food, water and medical care.
Courtesy of Boston NPR: Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are struggling to find basic supplies of food, water and medical care.

Dr. Ramy Arnaout of MIT and Harvard Medical School claims that unless the U.S. embraces more Syrian refugees, our reputation as a kind nation will be diminished.

Additionally, presidential candidate and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said “If Germany – a nation with one-fourth our population – can accept 800,000 refugees this year, certainly we – the nation of immigrants and refugees – can do more.”

As of now, the US has only accepted a few thousand Syrian refugees. According to the New York Times, President Obama announced in September that America will gradually welcome at least 10,000 in the following year. To put things into perspective, let’s take a look at the population density of Germany compared to that of the United States.

According to the Statistics Times, the population density of Germany is 231.25. America’s population density is drastically smaller, at only 33.77. As Gov. O’Malley said, I think America is capable of accepting a larger portion of these refugees.

It is also essential to note the difference between a refugee and an immigrant. A refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. Millions of these Syrians are desperately seeking refuge from the violence and terror of the civil war occurring in their nation, who are we to turn our backs on these desperate men, women and children?

United Nations figures show that women outnumber male refugees, and children 11-years-old and younger account for 38.5 percent of all Syrian refugees.

Courtesy of the International Refuge Committee
Courtesy of the International Refuge Committee

Another argument for providing a refuge for these Syrians is that if they have nowhere else to go, they may turn to terrorist organizations such as ISIS.

As a New York Times opinion piece says, “just as gangs attract youth in inner cities, terrorists are adroit at exploiting the most vulnerable who might turn to them for security, justice and even hope.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump would argue that the Syrian refugee crisis should be handled within Europe, and he isn’t alone in this argument. The reasoning behind this viewpoint includes the issues of national security as well as the potential for increased taxes and the steepening of national debt.

However according to an article in the Washington Post called “The big myth about refugees,” an influx of lower-wage immigrants into a community tends to raise wages for everyone else. The article referenced research by Giovanni Peri of the University of California and Davis and Mette Foged of the University of Copenhagen. Their research showed that accepting refugees benefited 19 out of 20 of the industrialized countries they studied.

As a nation founded by immigrants and refugees, we should not turn away so many in need of our help. However, I do not think that we should circumvent the immigration laws in place; we need to screen those entering our country for national security purposes. But through a gradual process, we have a responsibility to help our fellow man escape to safety, even if that means sacrificing some of our own resources.

The process for Syrians seeking asylum in the US involves a long security vetting procedure in order to ensure that only desperate refugees (not ISIS radicals) reach America, according to CNN. Typically, they say this is an 18-month process. While this may seem like a lengthy process, it is more than worth it to save these refugees and pursue our American ideals and values of liberty.

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