Nicole Rejer is a freshman psychology major.
Syrians now constitute the biggest refugee population in the world. According to CNN, at least eleven million Syrians have fled their homes since the civil violence broke out in 2011. In light of the recent Paris attacks, many U.S. states are closing their doors to Syrian refugees. More than 30 of the United States’ governors have stated that they will not allow refugees into their states–even though the federal government gets the final say in this whole process. Most of the governors protesting are Republican with the exception of one Democratic governor, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire who also opposes accepting more Syrians into their state.
So why the big panic all of a sudden? Since 2011, over 1,500 Syrians have been accepted into the United States. Alongside this information, the Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed to enter the U.S. next year. The fear that something like what happened in Paris could happen here is real: and people are willing to take any risk to make sure nothing like that occurs.
But this fear against Syrian refugees is irrational and very dangerous. The generalizations and stereotypes people are beginning to make about these people are unfair. And we must take action to stop this discrimination before it gets out of control. After 9/11, the same kind of prejudices were made against Muslims, and this led to the discrimination of families, to the burning of mosques, and to an era of “islamophobia” that has hurt countless people. The Syrian refugees are in a very similar position. People are looking at the incidents in Paris and trying to project that onto an entire nation of people. But in reality, the rest of the refugees are fleeing violence and are clearly desperate for any help. All they are asking for is a chance of a normal life.
If America really wants to get serious about fighting ISIS, rejecting refugees is not the way to do it. For every rejected refugee, we are accepting our fear of terrorism, and we show the world that we are throwing away our values. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, “Defeating ISIS involves projecting American ideals to the world.” It means that as the United States, we welcome those who are fleeing persecution and looking for a better life. That we don’t discriminate against the people of an entire nation based off of the actions of a couple of people. That as it says in our Declaration of Independence, everybody still has the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
These refugees are currently facing critical challenges. As one of the world’s greatest superpowers, it is up to us to help them overcome this tragedy and try to give them a chance at a normal life: it’s our responsibility. As written on our nation’s Statue of Liberty who welcomes those to our shores: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”