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SCU Voices: In Terms of Refugees, History Should Repeat Itself

Student Edward Obasi says the U.S. should allow entrance to more Syrian Refugees

Imagine: one moment you’re going about your daily routine– making breakfast, getting your family ready for work and school, and the next minute your home has been destroyed. All of a sudden, you’ve lost loved ones and are on your own heading into a country where no one speaks your language. After weeks of travel in a raft that barely keeps afloat you finally make it to Greece with just enough money to buy a plane ticket to the land of opportunity– the United States of America. You then hear the news that the same man who promised to ban all people of your faith from entering the country has just been elected president.

The world is facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, and yet the United States– the most powerful nation in the world– has yet to take on its fair share.

Amid the chaos of the Syrian refugee crisis, many western European countries have pledged to accept more than the United States’ abysmal 10,000 refugee limit. Due to the logistical burden of travel, countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have taken in approximately 90 percent of all Syrian refugees. However, European nations, some of which are Germany, Italy and Sweden have pledged to take in over half a million refugees. This all happened despite unfavorable polls in the previously mentioned European countries in regards to their citizens’ opinion of the refugees. Even our neighbors to the north who have a fraction of our GDP, population, and habitable land have pledged to accept over 31,000 refugees. All we have done is throw money and aerial strikes at the problem and pray that it will go away.

In 1948, a few years after the end of World War II, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation to allow 250,000 European refugees to be admitted into the country. In the coming years, an additional 400,000 Europeans would also be granted access to the country. The European refugees didn’t speak our language or share our culture, yet Congress passed legislation which allowed 650,000 of them to enter into our country. Now, the Syrian War is not nearly as large as a catastrophe as 60 million lives lost in WWII, however, it is our obligation as the most powerful nation in the world to help as much as we can. There are approximately 4.8 million Syrians displaced, making them the largest refugee population in the world today. Surely the United States can do better than a mere 1.5 percent of the number of refugees we offered asylum during WWII. Perhaps we should treat the Syrian refugees just as well as we treated European ones seven decades ago.

‘But why’, one might ask, ‘would the most powerful nation in the world turn its back on millions of innocent refugees?’ While an answer exists, the reasons behind it cannot be founded by logic. We assume that this would open the doors to radical Islamic terrorism, but forget that the membership of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria is estimated at 25,000 by the CIA, or about 0.1% of the Syrian population. We also forget that the current American processes for screening immigrants is as thorough as it has even been and takes months, sometimes even years. We forget that these refugees are people who have children, husbands, and sisters. We forget that just because people within the Islamic faith have done horrible acts, the refugees are just trying to escape the ruins left by a War of Terror that they never wanted to be involved in.

It is estimated that there are 1.6 billion people of the Islamic faith out of the 7.4 billion people on earth. Out of the 1.6 billion, approximately 25,000 are members of ISIL, 35,000 are in the Afghan Taliban, and 20,000 are in the Pakistani Taliban. With all these groups combined, it still adds up to far less than one percent of the Islamic population. Therefore, this hateful rhetoric spread by politicians and non-governmental associations alike is not only false and unfounded, but is more a reflection of their personal bias than the truth.

This election season, it came down to two polar opposite options in every way imaginable. Both have their good qualities and flaws, but their opposing stances on the Syrian refugee crisis was clear. One proposed an unconstitutional universal ban of all immigrants of the Muslim faith, and the other suggested an increase of refugees allowed into the United States to 65,000 per year. Despite the readily available information, the Trump Administration chooses to instill dangerous fear mongering rhetoric in their followers, misinforming them about the realities of immigration and a fifth of the world’s population. On January 20, 2017, President Elect Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America and seven days later declared a ban on entry to the US for seven majority Muslim countries. Fortunately, our government was founded on a system of checks and balances and said ban has now been blocked by a federal court. Despite the hopelessness and despair that some may be experiencing, it is more important now than ever to remain active in every aspect of our democracy. This round of battle may be over, but the literal and political war will likely continue.

You can still write to your local Congressperson or Senator and urge them to draft bills which would allow more Syrian Refugees in this nation. You can still write to the Supreme Court, urging them to recognize a ban of all people of a certain faith as unconstitutional. And in the words of our former president, “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures and run for office yourself.”

Edward Obasi Lewis is a first year student at Santa Clara University majoring in computer science and engineering.