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Anthony Rispoli
Chris Spielvogel- CAS 138T
April 13, 2016

Syrian Refugees: Yay or Nay?

Syria has in recent years become a problem in the world. The country garnered
international attention when peaceful government reform protests in Deraa evolved into civil war
after Syrian forces attacked protesters. The message of the protests shifted from government
reform to regime change, something which Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his loyalists
strongly oppose.1 In 2012, the fight was expanded outside of Deraa, where the initial protests
were. Local militias were formed to fend off any Syrian forces and the fight spread like wildfire
across the country.2 Since 2012, massive breaches of human rights, war crimes, and the rise in
power of an international terrorist organization have occurred. More than 220,000 lives have
been lost in the war, a large chunk of the death toll being civilians.3 The Syrian citizens have
experienced such carnage and danger that they could not live a normal life in their home country.
So they decided to migrate to countries in Europe and West Asia.
Where Do the Refugees End Up?4
1 Rodgers, Lucy, Gritten, David, Offer, James, Asare, Patrick, Syria, the Story of the Conflict, BBC
News, last modified March 11, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26116868

2Ibid.
3 Quick facts: what you need to know about the Syria Crisis, Mercy Corps, last modified March 1, 2016,
https://www.mercycorps.org/articles/iraq-jordan-lebanon-syria-turkey/quick-facts-what-you-need-knowabout-syria-crisis

4 Migrant Crisis: Migration to Europe Explained in Seven Charts, BBC News, last modified March 4,
2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34131911

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Since 2011, millions of Syrians have migrated to find refuge from the war. Countries like
Germany, Sweden, Turkey, and France have taken in Syrian refugees and given them a roof over
their heads. Countries closest to Syria like Lebanon and Turkey have taken in the most Syrian
refugees. But in 2014, migration rose exponentially and countries reached the maximum limit of
refugees that they could possibly take. This was the start of the Syrian Refugee Crisis.
Since the start of the crisis, illegal immigration to European nations, terroristic threats
and actions, population overflow, and a rape crisis have plagued the continents of Europe and
West Asia. Terrorist attacks in Paris, France and Brussels, Belgium have raised questions over
whether it is safe to have massive groups of Syrians in one area, especially since the majority of
the refugees are Muslim, the same religion and cause of ISIL, the terrorist group that gained
large amounts of power after the Syrian Civil War broke out. Fear turned into tension and there
was much hate in the countries that had refugees. Among this time of panic and crisis, the world
has wondered how the United States would react.
The United States seemed to be split on the issue and lawmakers were not acting. But
President Obama promised that would allow roughly 10,000 Syrian refugees to seek asylum in
the United States.5 This prompted a mixed reaction, including those from the Democratic Party.
Some were ecstatic that the United States was finally getting involved in the Syrian refugee crisis
while others were unenthusiastic or even angry. Those who are supporters of the Syrian refugees
in the United States (who are mostly Democrats) argue that it is the right thing to do. They
believe that we, as Americans, must not deprive people of the American dream and must listen to
our conscience. The United States have also allowed refugees into the country in the past.
5 Clark, David, How the US Plans to Welcome 10,000 Syrian Refugees, Business Insider, last modified
September 12, 2015, http://www.businessinsider.com/afp-how-the-us-plans-to-welcome-10000-syrianrefugees-2015-9

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Cubans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Soviet Russians, Germans, and more have sought the safety
of the United States in the last century. Democrats ask, if we have previously allowed these
refugee groups in, what makes this situation any different? However, those who oppose letting
Syrian refugees into the United States back their argument with multiple supports. Many believe
that it is a matter that should be left in the hands of the Syrians; the Syrian government should be
taking responsibility for the carnage and should provide safe havens for their citizens. Others
argue that the security of the United States would be breached. In Europe, ISIL members have
slipped through security and gone on to conduct some of the most deadly terrorist attacks in
Western European history. Americans who oppose letting Syrian refugees in argue that ISIL
members can do the exact same thing, which would give way to the opportunity to plan and carry
out a terrorist attack somewhere in the United States. Countries like France and Belgium allowed
Syrian refugees to come to their countries and both had a major terrorist attack in their respective
capitals. The Republicans do not want to risk a terror attack on American soil, even if it means
turning down people who are begging the US for help.
Where Are the Refugees Going in the United States? Where Are They Not?6

6 List of US States That Will and Will Not Accept Syrian Refugees, Morning News USA, accessed April
12, 2016, http://www.morningnewsusa.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/MNU-us-states-syrianrefugees.jpg

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Currently there are 31 states that are refusing to accept any Syrian refugees, which
includes, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.7 New Jersey governor Chris
Christie added his take on things by infamously voicing his opposition to accepting Syrian

7 Fantz, Ashley, Brumfield, Ben, More Than Half the Nations Governors Say Syrian Refugees Not
Welcome, CNN, last modified November 19, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/16/world/paris-attackssyrian-refugees-backlash/

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orphans under the age of 5.8 However, leaving the Syrian refugees to fend for themselves can be
disastrous. Those who are forced to remain in Syria risk losing their home, lifestyle, family
members, friends, and their own lives. Syrians who decide to seek another home must walk to
another country and risk getting mowed down by sniper fire or caught by soldiers who will force
young men to fight for the oppressive Syrian government.9 It is in the United States best interest
that Syrian refugees must never again experience the despair and fright in Syria. Moral and
humanitarian obligations of providing safe haven for Syrian refugees outweighs the security
risks; the United States should allow Syrian refugees to resettle on moral grounds.
International Reaction
The United States is one of the few Western powers that hasnt taken definite action on
the issue. Countries like Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany have taken their
stances on the issue and have all accepted more refugees than the United States. In the year 2015,
Germany accepted close to 1,000,000 refugees, while the United States has accepted roughly
650,000 refugees in the last 10 years.10 After announcing her countrys approach to the crisis,
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has received international praise and Germany was perceived
as a country of hope.11 This is surprising, especially since the American presence in foreign
8 Krieg, Gregory, Christie on Refugees: Not Even 5-year old Orphans, CNN, last modified November
17, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/17/politics/chris-christie-paris-attacks-refugee-orphans/

9 Quick facts: what you need to know about the Syria Crisis, Mercy Corps, last modified March 1, 2016,
https://www.mercycorps.org/articles/iraq-jordan-lebanon-syria-turkey/quick-facts-what-you-need-knowabout-syria-crisis

10 Garza, Frida, Germany Is Taking in More Refugees in 2015 Than the US Has in the Past 10 Years,
Quartz, last modified December 7, 2015, http://qz.com/567469/germany-is-taking-in-more-refugees-in2015-than-the-us-has-in-the-past-10-years/

11 Germanys Refugee Crisis, Al Jazeera, last modified March 3, 2016,


http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2016/03/germany-refugee-crisis160302135618356.html

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countries has been on the rise recently. The world has taken notice, and criticized the Americans
for their indifference, especially since the United States has been the peacemaker of the world
in the last decade. All eyes are on the United States, and they must be careful to make the right
decision.
Security Issues
Those who oppose letting in Syrian refugees question the security and safety of the
United States and its people. They argue that France and Belgium, countries that had major
terrorist attacks and Syrian refugees, are clear examples of why the United States shouldnt
accept refugees. If the United States were to allow Syrian refugees to settle in the United States,
it would attract attention from various international terrorist groups, including ISIL, which could
potentially spark a plan that would allow terrorists to settle in the United States.12 This has
happened in Europe multiple times- Germany is currently investigating a group of suspected
terrorists who posed as Syrian refugees; there are suspected ISIL plans where terrorists would
enter countries via migrant boats.13 Others claim that Syrian intelligence is riddled with flaws and
unreliable. US Citizenship and Immigration Services official Matthew Emrich revealed that the
Syrian government does not have a database that can cross-reference the refugees past history
with security and terrorism records.14 To put things in perspective, that means that a person
affiliated with a terror group who hasnt committed any crimes can enter the United States with
12Shawdick, Lana, Homeland Security Hearing Reveals Why Accepting Syrian Refugees Risks
American Lives, Brietbart.com, last modified November 17, 2015, http://www.breitbart.com/biggovernment/2015/11/17/homeland-security-hearing-reveals-accepting-syrian-refugees-risks-americanlives/

13 Syrian Refugee Flows: Security Risks and Counterterrorism Challenges, Homeland Security
Committee, last modified November 2015, https://homeland.house.gov/wpcontent/uploads/2015/11/HomelandSecurityCommittee_Syrian_Refugee_Report.pdf

14Ibid.

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ease, allowing them to continue with their plan. The United States and Syria also do not have the
strongest relationship right now. The US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was told to return to
the United States after it was determined that there were credible threats to his life.15
Furthermore, the United States joined Australia, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain,
Canada, and the Netherlands when they discharged diplomats from the Syrian Embassies.16 It has
also been revealed that more intensive security measures have been implemented in the
screening of refugees.17 But people are skeptical that the new measures will keep the country
completely safe.18 A complete list of American protocol for screening refugees, regardless of
their country of origin, is attached below.19
Basic American Screening Protocol for Refugees

15 Blanford, Nicholas, Surprise Recall of US Ambassador to Syria Spurred by Threats, The Christian
Science Monitor, last modified October 24, 2011, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/MiddleEast/2011/1024/Surprise-recall-of-US-ambassador-to-Syria-spurred-by-threats

16 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18252818
17 Syrian Refugee Flows: Security Risks and Counterterrorism Challenges, Homeland Security
Committee, last modified November 2015, https://homeland.house.gov/wpcontent/uploads/2015/11/HomelandSecurityCommittee_Syrian_Refugee_Report.pdf

18Ibid.
19 The Screening Process for Entry to the United States for Syrian Refugees, CAP, accessed April 12,
2016, https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/18083251/CAP-RefugeesWelcome1320px.png

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Despite the large safety concerns, the United States should accept Syrian refugees. After
looking at the procedures of refugee screening, one can conclude that it is a specific, detailoriented process that is very tedious. These procedures, despite having some holes, are very
careful and can easily be altered to be more specific and cautious. Since September 11, 2001, the
United States have accepted and resettled roughly 800,000 refugees from all around the world.20
Out of those 800,000 refugees, only 3 have been arrested for terror-related crimes.21 To put it into
perspective, less than 1% of refugees accepted by the United States have been charged with
terror crimes. With intensified domestic security and law enforcement (something to appease the
Republicans), Syrian refugees will peacefully assimilate into American life. Also, it would be
harder for terrorists to organize terror attacks in the United States than in any European/Middle
Eastern country. The United States is a large country with a relatively small ISIL population. If
terrorists were able to sneak their way through security, they would need inside help. But since
the country is so large, the nearest ISIL sympathizer may be far away from the proposed target.
Not to mention that getting the resources necessary to create the attack would be hard. American
intelligence is far superior to Syrian, German, and French intelligence, and many Americans
have the utmost confidence that the FBI or CIA would foil any terror threats in the United States.
The United States also has a good idea of who is involved with ISIL in the United States. If they
see any refugees interacting with them, then thats a clear red flag to authorities. Domestic
intelligence also have a good idea of which mosques produce radicalized Muslims that are
willing to go overseas to train with ISIL. So despite the security risks, many Americans would
feel comfortable living with Syrian refugees. Many Americans, regardless of their political
20 Daniels, Owen, 4 Reasons the US Should Support the Resettlement of Syrian Refugees, The
Huffington Post, last modified November 23, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/owen-daniels/fourreasons-the-us-shoul_b_8630704.html

21 Ibid.

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affiliation, would support stricter and more specific screening. On a more humanistic view, most
Syrians that are fleeing their homes are normal people who are trying to find a safe haven for
their family.22 It isnt likely that a Syrian refugee would plan or carry out a terrorist attack if they
sought asylum in the United States. The extreme precautions that presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz
and Donald Trump are advocating for, like temporarily banning Syrian refugees and Muslims
from entering the United States is a.) unconstitutional, b.) immoral, and c.) uneffective. It would
create an atmosphere of hate and intolerance, something the modern world has no room for.
Social and Moral Issues
Perhaps the second largest argument dealing with Syrian refugees in the United States is
the moral issues. Many Republicans and Democrats agree that it would be the moral thing to do
if Syrian refugees were allowed to settle in the United States. However many other issues are
preventing bipartisanship. However it is my belief that social and moral issues alike can be
tackled simply by allowing Syrian refugees into the country. ISIL has used photos and videos of
refugees being mistreated as propaganda, sending the message to Muslims that ISIL is the true
protector of Sunni Islam.23 The Islamic state claimed that these occurrences are regular in
Western society and urge that Sunni Muslims stay in areas of influence.24 American lawmakers
who are advocating for resettlement of exclusively Christian Syrians and comparing refugees
with rabid dogs are playing into ISILs propaganda.25 But if the country accepted the refugees, it
22 Speckhard, Anne, Taking in Refugees Is Not a Risk to National Security, Time, last modified
September 9, 2015, http://time.com/4024473/taking-in-refugees-is-not-a-risk-to-national-security/

23 Daniels, Owen, 4 Reasons the US Should Support the Resettlement of Syrian Refugees, The
Huffington Post, last modified November 23, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/owen-daniels/fourreasons-the-us-shoul_b_8630704.html

24 Ibid.
25Ibid.

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would break that stereotype, ruining the propaganda of an unfriendly West.26 It could also
deter groups of Sunnis from radicalizing, decreasing the potential number of ISIL recruits.27 ISIL
needs to be sidetracked, and this is a great way to decrease ISIL moral. The issue of Syrian
refugees in the United States also created a big moral debacle. Countries like Turkey and
Lebanon have accepted more than 1,000,000 refugees while other countries like Germany and
France plan to accept thousands more.28 But the United States, which established itself as
arguably the most influential and powerful country in the world, has accepted less than 2000
Syrian refugees in total.29 This creates a questionable international perception of the United
States. Countries in Europe and Asia are spending more resources than they normally use to
accommodate for the Syrian refugees. France and Belgium, countries that had massive terrorist
attacks in the last year, are continuing to accept Syrian refugees, despite the tragedies they
experienced.
Conclusion
Accepting Syrian refugees into the United States remains a touchy issue. Political conservatives
argue that there are far too many security risks associated with acceptance; political liberals
argue that the most moral decision is to accept the refugees. But despite the controversy of the
issue, allowing Syrian refugees to seek asylum in the United States is the best approach. The
moral of the United States would be boosted and the country would be viewed more positively.
Syrian refugees will be given shelter and an opportunity to strive for success and the pursuit of

26Ibid.
27Ibid.
28Ibid.
29Ibid.

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happiness. They will become the new manifestations of the American dream and can wiggle
themselves into the American labor force. Syrians, and all Muslims, are not here to destroy the
country in the name of the prophet, Mohammed. They are simply trying to escape the war as well
as to start a new life with new opportunities and hope. Recently, an article was released about the
post-resettlement of Ahmed al-Abboud. Although he is living in Kansas, a state where its
governor proclaimed that they would not help with resettlement, al-Abboud is so happy that he
and his family have a second chance.30 He says that everyone is so accepting and loving towards
him and his family and assured the American people that Syrians are simply seeking a better life
for their families.31 This success story of Syrian refugee resettlement should be a symbol of hope
for Democrats and Syrians alike. It humanizes the refugees, showing that they are merely trying
to find a safe place for their family. Going further, it shows how normal Muslims are allies and
friends of all. Islamists are the enemy; Muslims are not.

30Siemaszko, Corky, Ahmad al-Abboud, Syrian Refugee Who Resettled in Kansas City, Speaks Out,
NBC News, last modified April 16, 2016, http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/syrias-sufferingfamilies/ahmad-al-abboud-syrian-refugee-who-resettled-kansas-city-speaks-n554181

31Ibid.