Half or more of our country’s governors – including Governor Hogan in our home state of Maryland – have proclaimed that they will refuse to accept Syrian refugees. Their reasoning: one of the Paris bombers slipped in with the refugee wave and so refugees from Syria are a terrorist threat to our country. The lack of accuracy and logic is mind-boggling:
- The numbers refute this position: As noted in a recent blog, only 3 of the more than 800,000 refugees admitted into the US since 2001 have been convicted of planning terrorist attacks, miniscule compared to the 1 in 22,000 or so Americans convicted of murder in 2014, one year alone. Who should we be more afraid of?
- Common sense refutes this position: Why should terrorists wallow in a refugee camp for years, wait the 18 months or more to be processed, and go through a grueling vetting process with a minimal chance of acceptance to enter the US, when they can easily slip in with one of several other visas?
- The demographics refute this position: terrorist-related convictions are usually of men. More than two-thirds of the Syrian refugees seeking to settle in the US are women or children.
The demographics – my particular training –point to objective reasons that we should welcome the Syrian refugees. Close to one-third of Syrian refugee arrivals in the US since October 2011 are 21-40 years old, that is, of prime working-age.They are fleeing terror, ISIS, bombs, death and destruction. They want to build new lives. They come from a middle-income country with high levels of education. Such young adults integrated into US society via jobs and security for themselves and their families can be a huge asset, particularly as the country ages. Conversely, if disenfranchised, they may become prime recruits for terrorists: this truth is in front of our eyes all across the Middle East and South Asia. Thus, turning our back on them may be the very action that increases the threat of terrorism.
And what it means to be American points to moral reasons that we must welcome the Syrian refugees. As an immigrant, I have (perhaps naively?) been impressed at America’s acceptance of differences and the creed that anyone can be an ‘American.’ To me, the current rejection of the world’s newest refugees is, in this light, the worst, un-American NIMBYism born out of fear and paranoia. As an immigrant living in Maryland, I appeal to Governor Hogan to not debase himself, his office and our state by pandering to this hysteria. As an immigrant who chose to live and raise my kids in Takoma Park, I am proud to be part of a community that reaffirms our humanity by welcoming refugees to our small but strong town.