Conflating refugees and terrorists is not what anyone needs right now. We do need to know the facts about bringing Syrian refugees to this country. We need to know, not fear. My friend Amber Hughson has compiled some vitally important information about refugees who are brought to the United States (see below). I hope this will counteract the fears people have and replace them with the courage we all need to stand with the thousands of vulnerable people on the refugee road. As if their lives are not frightening enough, they have just been hit with another blow by what happened in Paris. There is a lot we cannot control about such awful events, but we can become informed and we can read poetry. Naomi Shahib Nye’s piece called “Gate A-4” follows about what happened in an airport. It shows us what kind of people we could be and the kind of world we’d like to live in. Her poem called “Kindness” is helpful too.
Information regarding refugee settlement in the United States, to address widespread misinformation following the Paris Attacks:
1. The United States has taken 784,000 refugees since 9/11 and zero have been involved in domestic terrorism; (Migration Policy Institute)
2. Refugees entering the United States will go through several tiers of asylum screening by the United Nations and the United States which have proven success in keeping us secure; (US State Department, United Nations)
Screening process according to the State Department:
- Apply for asylum through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
- Refugee status determined based on the parameters laid out in the 1951 Refugee Convention
- Once assigned to the United States, application is processed by a federally funded Resettlement Support Center, including: an interview and a medical evaluation
- An inter-agency security screening process including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation including biographical and biometric background check.
3. Refugees in Europe did not go through the above noted screening processes, as they are arriving on shore outside of asylum processes (United Nations), so using the Paris attacks as evidence that Da’esh will pretend to be refugees to get in, is to make a false comparison;
4. American citizens have committed more acts of domestic terrorism or domestic mass violence than foreign-born immigrants, and none of the latter have been refugees settled here through the asylum process. In the United States since Sept. 11, terrorist attacks by antigovernment, racist and other nonjihadist extremists have killed nearly twice as many people as those by Islamic jihadists (NYT). The FBI lists right-wing extremists as the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat;
5. Being American no more affiliates you with the KKK or Michigan militia than being Syrian affiliates a refugee with Da’esh.
6. In regard to the Boston Bombers, The Tsarnaev parents came to the United States on a 90-day travel VISA, not as refugees. They then applied for asylum for themselves and their children who were under 10 (Washington Post). Their parents openly spoke against Muslim extremism. It wasn’t until a decade later that the two sons would meet Muslim extremists already living in the United States and affiliate themselves with extremism and then take terrorist action. Precluding children under ten from asylum because they might become extremists after a decade living in the United States is a bad argument.
7. Ben Carson and others have stated that Syrian refugees are mostly military-aged men, however, the study they’re citing is one that is about Mediterranean sea crossings on a dinghy and includes migrants of all types, not just refugees. Mediterranean sea crossings of this type are the most dangerous way to flee North Africa and the Middle East, which explains why more men would risk it than women and children (United Nations). According to the UNHCR, 50.3% of Syrian refugees are women of all ages, only 22.1% are military-aged (18 – 59) men.
8. Despite arguments that what happened to Paris will happen to us, all of the identified assailants of the Paris attacks were European nationals. Three bombers were French citizens, one of the organizers was from Brussels, Belgium. The Syrian passport found near an attacker’s body was a fake, and therefore doesn’t say anything specifically about whether that person was actually Syrian or actually a refugee. More importantly, the ability to migrate from inside and outside the European continent is not similar or comparable to coming to the United States through the refugee process (as stated above). Using this argument to prevent Syrian refugees from coming is less logical than it would be to prevent European nationals from coming here, given that French and Belgian nationals can travel to the United States without even a VISA. Given that no one is arguing to ban European travelers from visiting the United States, we must regard this argument as completely disassociated from Syrian refugees.