The last four years saw a brutal civil war between rebel groups plaguing Syria, killing more than 200,000, dropping the average life expectancy by twenty years, and leaving nearly 60% of the population unemployed or in extreme poverty. With the fighting only escalating and no end in sight, thousands flee the country everyday. Although the world has an altruistic desire to assist, many are against admitting Syrian refugees into their country for fear of safety. Terrorists could effortlessly and legally enter the country through the waves of refugees.
During the Paris terrorist attacks, that possibility became a reality. On October 3rd, using false documents, Ahmad al Muhammad entered Greece as a Syrian. Moving through Macedonia, Serbia and Croatia, Muhammad ultimately entered France, where he and three other suicide bombers blew themselves up in Stade de France. His actions proved that terrorists entering the country though the Syrian refugee crisis is no longer a ‘What if?’ situation, but a reality with dire consequences.
President Barack Obama, following the Paris attacks, is still a principal advocator for welcoming Syrian refugees. This Thanksgiving season, he urged Americans to offer Syrians a chance assuring them, “no refugee can enter our borders until they undergo the highest security checks of anyone traveling to the United States.” His words ring true; there is a massive difference in European and American screening processes. A refugee hoping to enter Europe can pay a smuggler $1000 for transport across the six-mile-wide strait between Turkey and the Greek islands. From there they are admitted onto Europe’s mainland, even without proper identification documents. And then, due to Europe’s Schengen system, a refugee can travel through most of the countries without any legal documents. However in America, immigrants are filtered in gradually, arriving only by plane. The Department of Homeland Security first executes a comprehensive background, security and health check along with an in-depth interview and investigation of the claims made by the applicant, taking an average of eighteen months. Afterward, the government collaborates with nine non-profit organizations to relocate the refugees throughout the United States. Refugees will receive adequate money to establish themselves but with a responsibility to find a job, sustain themselves, and pay back the government for their plane ticket to the United States.
President Obama finds credence in these security measures, showing his confidence by planning to resettle 10,000 Syrians by September 2016. If this were to happen, the ratio of Syrian refugees to the existing population would only be .004%, proving there won’t be an influx of Syrians, as some fear. House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi who believes refugees should be let in on humanitarian grounds. She supports her stance, saying, “While we must and do subject any prospective-refugee to the most rigorous scrutiny and screening, it would betray our proudest values as Americans to slam the door in the face of desperate mothers seeking a safe place for their children.”
A majority doesn’t share Obama’s confidence with 54% of the country strongly opposing the entry of Syrian refugees into the country, and a mere 28% supporting Obama’s plan to take in 10,000 refugees. Most of the opposition is rooted in the fear of terrorism that has increased substantially after the Paris attacks. 52% of Americans think that security measures cannot identify terrorists. If America were to accept more refugees, it would heighten the burden on the already overstretched Department of Homeland Security to screen refugees for potential threats. Nevertheless, even if America is able to thoroughly screen every single Syrian refugee, its impossible to look into and verify every distinct detail. Once refugees have been permitted into America, the government doesn’t track their activities. These small security gaps are what terrorists can use to infiltrate the country. Additionally, more than half the state governors identify with the majority of Americans, showing their opposition through social media or letters to the White House. However, authority pertaining to this issue rests with the Federal government. Supported by the Constitution and the 1980 Refugee Act, the Federal government gets the final say in resettling these immigrants. Nevertheless, state governors can make it very difficult for Obama to push his agenda, and they are. Last Thursday, the House bill passed to limit Syrian refugees allowed into the country with enough democratic support to override a potential veto from the president.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, increased concern, debate, and speculation have surrounded the Syrian refugee crisis. Especially, with the looming presidential election more time and energy will be allotted to this pressing issue. This is only the beginning to this critical debate. In the coming years, America will continue to fight over this serious issue with only time able to tell how this situation plays out.