Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly voted in favor of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which would make it all but impossible for Syrians to enter the US.
The screening process for refugees is already very stringent, arguably making this new legislation extremely unnecessary and harmful to people who really need assistance.
The bill still has to go through the Senate, and it's uncertain whether or not it will pass.
But, the bill already generated a fair amount of controversy and debate. For example, CNN reporter Elise Labott was suspended simply for tweeting something exhibiting empathy toward Syrian refugees.
House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish @CNNPolitics https://t.co/5RvZwVftgD — Elise Labott (@eliselabottcnn) November 19, 2015
CNN's @eliselabottcnn has been suspended for 2 weeks for this tweet about the refugee bill. https://t.co/PklljJyRte pic.twitter.com/dxA9ZtOIs2 — AJ+ (@ajplus) November 20, 2015
Indeed, Syrian refugees have become an extremely contentious issue in the US, particularly in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Much of the trepidation surrounding refugees is related to fears over terrorism and, specifically, ISIS.
But, perhaps people should realize of the 68 people arrested in the US for being involved with ISIS, 81 percent of them were US citizens, and none were Syrians. So far, it also seems none of the Paris attackers were Syrians. And not one of the 1,800 Syrians admitted into the US since 2011 was arrested or removed on terrorist charges.
ZERO Syrian refugees that resettled in the U.S. have been arrested or removed on terrorism charges. pic.twitter.com/oPnDiZbSsU — The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 19, 2015
Some argue while they'd like to help refugees, they believe the US should concentrate on helping veterans before it assists people from other countries.
A viewers asked Sean why money is being used to house refugees but not homeless veterans. Submit your questions using #AskSean. — Fox News (@FoxNews) November 20, 2015
There are several problems with this line of argument. It's true about 12 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans, and it's shameful the US has failed to take care of the people who fought in its wars.
But, it's also true many of these homeless veterans fought in Afghanistan and Iraq where large populations of refugees now come from. America's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq helped create refugees. And when the US soldiers who fought those wars came home, the US didn't properly stand by them. In other words, the US arguably has an obligation to help both US veterans and refugees.
And now, the US is involved in the conflict in Syria where it has conducted thousands of air strikes since August 2014.
Like it or not, the US is connected to the ongoing refugee crisis in multiple ways. It also goes against American values to ignore the plight of those in need.
If you don't want to take my word for it, listen to Phil Klay, an award-winning author and veteran who served with the US Marine Corps in Iraq. On Thursday, Klay lambasted America's politicians for the American SAFE Act through a series of impeccable tweets.
Klay made it clear he does not approve of any efforts to avoid helping Syrian refugees.
1. Tremendously upset by attempt to effectively close our borders to Syrian refugees by imposing impossible-to-implement screening standards — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
As a Marine, Klay risked his life for American ideals, and that's why he hates seeing them violated right now.
2. When I swore my oath of office as a Marine officer, I swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
3. The Marine hymn claims that Marines are the “first to fight for right and freedom and to keep our honor clean.” — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
4. You're not supposed to risk your life just for the physical safety of American citizens — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
5. You're supposed to risk your life for American ideals as well. — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
Klay explained why people shouldn't politicize the refugee crisis; the US should be setting an example for the world.
6. This shouldn't be a left-right issue. Ronald Reagan, who believed that America was the exceptional nation, — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
7. the “Shining City on a Hill,” asked himself during his farewell address from the Oval Office how that Shining City fared, answering: — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
8. "After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
9. “And she's still a beacon; still a magnet for all who must have freedom, — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
10. “for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness toward home." — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
He alluded to the pilgrims who first came to this country many years ago and explained it's both America's duty and in America's interests to help refugees.
11. Millions of pilgrims are hurtling through the darkness, but it's Germany that has recently been the beacon standing strong and true, — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
12. welcoming them home, not America. — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
13. If we want to be the kind of nation that others will follow, — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
14. the kind of nation capable of forging strong links in the Muslim world against extremism, — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
15. then we have to behave like that kind of nation. I get that people are scared. — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
Klay ended on a very powerful point: A nation shows its true character in how it responds to crises. If America gives into fear, it can't call itself "home of the brave."
16. But it's only during frightening times when you get to find out if your country really deserves to call itself the 'home of the brave.' — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
17. Worth noting that @theIRC does excellent work for refugees, and always appreciates donations. https://t.co/APsnTDe5s7 — Phil Klay (@PhilKlay) November 19, 2015
Indeed, no big decision should ever be a product of fear. Not helping refugees helps ISIS and stands against everything the US was founded upon.
"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" (unless they're Syrian refugees) pic.twitter.com/L47hdt38Jj — Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) November 20, 2015
There's also the fact France is still accepting refugees even after the Paris attacks. If France can do it, what's stopping the US?
The US can and should be better than this.
Citations: House Approves Tougher Refugee Screening, Defying Veto Threat (The New York Times), Refugees Are Incredibly Well-Vetted, As This Woman's Story Shows (ThinkProgress), 81% of Isis-linked suspects charged in US are American citizens (The Guardian), What We Know About the Paris Attackers (New York), PolitiFact Sheet: 5 questions about Syrian refugees (PolitiFact), Operation Inherent Resolve (DOD)