America has a long and proud history of offering safety and security to people around the world who are fleeing civil war, persecution and torture. Our country was offering a new start and protection to religious refugees as far back as the 17th Century. Recently, President Obama promised to take up to 10,000 Syrian refugees to help deal with the crisis of millions fleeing from Syria due to the multi-year civil war that has raged in that country.
I had the opportunity this week to speak on this important issue on television: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaphUCd84zc
Taking in refugees from around the world is what America does, it is part of what makes us the greatest country in the history of the world. Because we can, we offer safety and security to people who have none in their home countries. Our laws cap the number of refugees we can take into the U.S. in a given year at 70,000. The 10,000 Syrians we have agreed to help is but a drop in the bucket, however, it is a great start.
Both sides of the immigration debate agree that we should offer assistance to those in need. Some say we should be taking in ten times as many refugees and others say we should be very cautious about who we do allow in given the close ties between the Syrian refugees and the ISIS terrorists who have vowed to destroy American and commit terrorists on our soil.
As usual with the immigration debate, both sides have great points. Taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees in what has become the most serious refugee crisis in decades seems like far too little for a country that brings in seven times as many on a yearly basis. However, the threat that ISIS sympathizers and other terrorists posing as refugees could seek admission to the United States as a means to commit terrorist acts is very real.
This is not paranoia or rank speculation; when our country has opened our protective arms to people fleeing other conflicts, we have unknowingly allowed in war criminals, persecutors and mass murders. In the 1980’s, Central America had multiple civil wars that forced thousands to flee to the U.S. In the decades that followed, we learned that numerous war criminals and human rights abusers came into the U.S. during the conflicts.
More recently in the 1990’s, the refugee crisis in the Balkans sent thousands fleeing to the U.S. after the former Yugoslavia collapsed into civil war. Our government has spent years identifying and trying to deport leaders from the Bosnian Serb army who committed acts of genocide and mass murder against innocent civilians. Many of these men came into the U.S. posing a refugees, they all denied having been war criminals, but eventually our government discovered their lies.
The threat that ISIS terrorists and sympathizers will try to obtain refugee status and get into the U.S. to commit horrible acts of terror is very concerning, however, that should not prevent America from letting in 999 innocent refugee victims just to prevent the possibility that we allow in one potential terrorist.
The solution is that our refugee resettlement professionals must use every possible means to screen and vet the potential refugees to ensure that they have no links to ISIS or any other terror group and have not engaged in any crimes or horrific acts of violence. We need to use every resource possible to make sure that anyone who makes it through the refugee process is not a threat to our national security.
Only then can America’s greatest strength and our greatest weakness-our freedom-continue to survive.