On Tuesday night, Donald Trump made headlines (which isn’t surprising) by saying that “you’d have to” take in Syrian refugees in light of the humanitarian crises unfolding in front of our eyes.
Predictably, pundits are contrasting his “you’d have to” let some in against his hard-line stance against illegal immigration. CNN couldn’t help themselves:
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, whose campaign often focuses on expelling illegal immigrants, said the United States should accept more Syrian refugees due to the “unbelievable humanitarian problem.”
“I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis, with what’s happening, you have to,” Trump told Fox News.
Syria Isn’t Mexico, and These Aren’t Illegal Immigrants
When news outlets like CNN equate the Syrian refugees to illegal immigrants coming in from Mexico, they show just how tone deaf they are to both issues.
Illegal immigrants are people who have no regard for the laws of the United States and are willing to take the risk (although given our current administration, there isn’t much risk) to come into our country illegally. Syrian refugees are humans who have been legitimately displaced in their home country because conditions are so bad that they are willing to leave everything just for the sake of personal safety.
Understanding the Syrian Issue
The number of people fleeing Syria is growing with every year and every month.
When did the crisis start?
Anti-government demonstrations began in March of 2011, part of the Arab Spring. But the peaceful protests quickly escalated after the government’s violent crackdown, and rebels began fighting back against the regime.
By July, army defectors had loosely organized the Free Syrian Army and many civilian Syrians took up arms to join the opposition. Divisions between secular and Islamist fighters, and between ethnic groups, continue to complicate the politics of the conflict.
What is happening to Syrians caught in the war?
More than four years after it began, the full-blown civil war has killed over 220,000 people, half of whom are believed to be civilians. Bombings are destroying crowded cities and horrific human rights violations are widespread. Basic necessities like food and medical care are sparse.
The U.N. estimates that 7.6 million people are internally displaced. When you also consider refugees, more than half of the country’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders.
In addition to the numbers of people being killed, a significant percentage of those 7.6 million people who are internally displaced are children.
Is the US Responsible for the Civil War?
This is a complex question to answer, but the US is partly to blame for this civil war due to our weak involvement in sponsoring the rebel armies. This has lead to an escalation of the war, but not enough for the rebels to actually be successful. President Obama’s policy of being involved without getting our own hands dirty has allowed the situation in Syria to boil into a full-blown civil war.
Of course, the real culprit in Syria is ISIS, and our president’s lack of a strong response and plan for ISIS has fueled the war in Syria.
Former Ambassador John Bolton, however, lays the blame directly at Obama’s feet:
“One critical cause of Europe’s illegal-immigration spike is the growing chaos across the greater Middle East. This spreading anarchy derives, in substantial part, from Barack Obama’s deliberate policy of “leading from behind” by reducing U.S. attention to and involvement in the region. When America’s presence diminishes anywhere in the world, whatever minimal order and stability existed there can rapidly evaporate.”
“For years, the central cause of population movements into Europe was economic: North Africans crossed the narrow Strait of Gibraltar or headed to France or Italy. Turks and Arabs entered through Greece and Eastern Europe. Once into the European Union (“EU”), thanks to the Schengen Agreement, travel barriers are now almost nonexistent, and, as in the United States, illegal aliens can essentially travel freely.
What the Candidates are Saying
Most of the republican candidates have no issue laying the current crises at the feet of president Obama.
Kasich added that the United States’ “confusing” policies in the Middle East have not helped the situation. “America needs to lead in the world and be clear about what we’re all about,” he said.
“That young child today is a symbol for this country’s inaction and this president’s deceit,” said Christie. “This president has allowed these folks to be slaughtered. I frankly can’t imagine as president of the United States how you could permit this to happen on this scale, and now we’re seeing those results. And it’s much different when you read about it, and when you see it — it becomes even more powerful.”
“This is an example of what happens when the United States fails to lead,” she said. “President Obama had options in Syria three years ago. And he failed to exercise any of those options.”
But this shouldn’t come as a surprise as the candidates will take any shot they can at President Obama. Most candidates have been depressingly evasive on the question.
But What About the Threat of Terrorism?
The strongest objection to taking in refugees is the threat of terrorists posing as refugees in order to gain access to our country. Micheal McCaul explains the administration’s fear:
“We’re a compassionate nation and this is a tragic situation but I also have to be concerned as Chairman of Homeland Security about the safety of Americans in this country and the concern that I have and that the FBI testified to is that we don’t really have the proper databases on these individuals to vet them passed and to assure we’re not allowing terrorists to come into this country and until I have that assurance, I cannot support a program that could potentially bring jihadists into the United States,”
Despite this fear, Donald Trump is right. The humanitarian crisis outweighs the danger. This is a crisis on a scale that we haven’t seen since World War II.
“On a humanitarian basis, something does have to be done,” Mr Trump said.
“It’s a serious problem. We haven’t seen anything like it since the second world war, and it’s getting worse and worse”.
When asked whether he thought they should be allowed in the US, the business mogul said: “I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis, with what’s happening, you have to.”
He added: “It’s living in hell in Syria. They are living in hell.”
What do you think? Should the US increase its efforts with allies and here within our country to aid Syrian refugees? Comment below.