United States needs to take more active role in accepting refugees

Islamophobia plays into view of ISIS, split opinions make seeking asylum difficult for refugees

Reilly Swennes, Design Editor/Editorials Editor

For nearly half a decade, Syrian refugees and those from surrounding countries have waited to gain entry into the United States to escape political unrest. However, opposition stemming from fear politics and prejudice is making it increasingly difficult to seek refuge. This is startling, considering that the United States is supposed to be a beacon of democracy built on immigration.

Political asylum is a human right affirmed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States has agreed to the United Nations Conventions Relating to the Status of Refugees and have an obligation to let those who qualify come into their country. Why is it then, that some state leaders believe that they have the power to close their doors to more than 10 million displaced refugees (half of which are children), while other nations that are not as well equipped to handle a refugee crisis such as Turkey and Iraq have to absorb a disproportionate share?   

For many, this reluctance to accept those displaced by the political unrest in Syria stems from islamophobia. In fact, some politicians want to go so far as to ban all Muslims from entering the country at all or, as Ted Cruz has proposed, implement a religious test in order to gain entry. The popular misconception that Islam is synonymous with terrorism groups such as ISIS is not only fallacious, but has also been used to justify instances of violence against those of Islamic faith. Since 9/11, hate crimes against Muslims have increased fivefold in the United States. There has been a rapid increase in mosque burnings, racism-fueled murders, and the intimidation of Muslims by domestic terrorists.

Too many fail to realize that Syrian refugees are among those facing the brunt of attacks not only from President Bashar al-Assad amidst a four-year civil war, but also from the very same terrorist group that so many identify them with. The unyielding opposition to allow refugees into the United States shares many similarities with conditions Jewish refugees experienced during World War II. And it was not until intense lobbying by the American Jewish community that refugees were eventually admitted into the United States. In the same way anti-Semitism was prevalent then, Islamophobia is just a prevalent now and fear mongers like Donald Trump are taking advantage of it.

The greatest threat to the American public is ourselves. In 2015, the United States has had more mass shootings than there are days in the year — the vast majority of which had no connection to ISIS  or any other terrorist group whatsoever. Moreover, ISIS already has supporters that are natural-born U.S. citizens such as Alexander Ciccolo, the son of a Boston police captain. In fact, 86% of those arrested as suspected sympathizers are young, American men according to researchers at George Washington University.

Those who genuinely believe that these refugees are the enemy are giving into the ISIS narrative that Western nations have a vendetta against Islamic faith. They are dividing us by preying on our empathetic instincts by desensitizing us to death and destruction. By making these horrific acts so commonplace, the images of families being separated and children washing up on beaches is no longer enough to evoke a sense of urgency and care for the refugees. If someone is going preach that “All Lives Matter,” why are refugees any different?