The trail of Syrian refugees leads to the White House, and it runs roughly along this argument: George W. Bush destabilized the Arab world with his invasion of Iraq and the war in Syria is a direct consequence. As a result, the United States must admit those Syrians seeking protection on a grand scale.
The admonition that is heard more and more often in Europe is now being debated in progressive circles in the U.S. Even more than a question of responsibility, it is [a question about] the number — 1,500 — which is perceived as a flaw [for America].
Since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, the U.S. has granted 1,500 Syrians asylum; the same number again could possibly arrive by the end of this year. That is sparse for a country that could integrate about 3 million via its refugee program, [in place] for the past 40 years.
“There is a careful and deliberate vetting process for people from Syria that we must follow,” justifies the U.S. Department of State, pointing out that after all, $4 billion in humanitarian aid has flowed from Washington.
Not the Same as Any Other Country of Origin
Syrian applications for asylum in the U.S. are associated with extensive background checks and great patience. They often wait in refugee camps in the Middle East and Turkey for more than a year to get an appointment at the nearest U.S. Embassy. The rate of rejection was high up to now. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees alone records having submitting almost 16,300 cases.
The U.S. will admit up to 70,000 refugees this year, but Syria, as the most important area of operation for the Islamic State, is not the same as any other country of origin. There is great concern since 9/11 about making it possible for Islamic extremists to enter the country legally. “The U.S. politicians who voted for the Iraq War say we can’t let in Iraqis or Syrians because they might have been radicalized,” American Middle East expert Juan Cole indignantly expressed in a recent blog.
Skeptics invoke that the danger of terrorism at home is real. Proceedings are currently in progress against 30 members of the Somalian community in Minneapolis for having supported the Islamic State group or the extremists from al-Shabab.
Republican presidential candidates like Rand Paul or Carly Fiorina are among the cautioners against Syrian immigration. Their competitor Scott Walker, on the other hand, declares the victory over the Islamic State group as the solution to all problems — in any case, for the conservatives, the trail of refugees leads directly to Barack Obama and his reproachable “weak” Syrian policy.
The Debate On Immigration Is Venomous
The majority of contenders avoid the topic of relief, however. The election campaign has poisoned any debate on immigration, regardless of [origin]. Democrat Martin O’Malley and Republican John Kasich are only two candidates who approve of the admission of further Syrians. “If Germany — a country with one-fourth our population — can accept 800,000 refugees this year, certainly we — the nation of immigrants and refugees — can do more,” O’Malley said.
Relief organizations also urge doing more. David Miliband, former British foreign minister and president of the International Rescue Committee, recently called for more receptiveness in Washington as a sign of “the kind of leadership needed for America to play its historic role.”
When 14 Democratic senators suggested expanding the Syrian contingent to 65,000 a year, conservative critics unfortunately gave the politicians the nickname “Jihad Committee.” “The rhetoric has been really awful,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “The difficulty of doing it is met by this Islamophobia and conflation of Syrians and Iraqis with terrorists.”
White House Avoids the Topic
After the Vietnam War, the U.S. admitted 1.3 million Vietnamese in spite of U.S. resentment among the population. But that was another war, another responsibility and another time.
In the coming year, the U.S. now wants to accept up to 8,000 refugees from Syria. President Barack Obama could theoretically mandate a further opening. In the face of the upcoming congressional vote on the nuclear deal with Iran, the White House, however, is avoiding the topic.