Telling the truth about Syrian Refugees

As probably should have been predicted by, well, everyone, the terrible attacks in Paris last Friday night brought out the xenophobic right in full force. With their idiotic cries of “American safety must come first,” they have responded with the cowardice and lack of humanity we have come to expect from this group of people. It’s yet another reason — perhaps reason number 1 million? — why we need to get these people the hell out of our government, but that’s another column for another day.

So far, about two dozen state governors have demonstrated their ignorance of the Constitution they swore to uphold and declared for all to hear that they refuse to accept Syrian refugees because they’re scared and their cowardice trumps (unintended pun) good sense, human compassion and, above all (?), Christian doctrine. Many of the same people who were deriding Starbucks cups as “anti-Christmas” a week ago are now refusing access to suffering people. You know, because that’s what Jesus would have wanted, right?

I happen to think the American people, if they’re going to make a decision about this, should know a few things that their cowardly politicians won’t tell them because it doesn’t match their primary objective, which is to engender fear and trepidation, because fear in a democracy makes the people more pliable and less effective. So, here are some facts everyone should know.

  • First of all, contrary to popular belief, the refugees are registered with the UN High Commissioner on Refugees. They don’t just leave Syria and head out on a paper raft for parts unknown, for the most part.  Okay, there are a few, but for chrissakes, folks, get real; there are 4.1 million Syrian refugees so far, and they didn’t all float to, say, Paris on a rubber raft. That would be as ridiculous as thinking it was possible to gather 11 million people, put them on trains and dump them in Mexico. So, there is plenty of information to do some screening, if someone looks a little dodgy.
  • Currently, the Syrian refugees are being kept in camps, mostly in Turkey (1.9 million), Lebanon (1.1 million), Jordan (630,000) and Iraq (250,000). Funny that, with all those refugees, there have been few or no problems in those countries so far due to the refugee “threat.”
  • While xenophobic politicians peddle this image that Syrian refugees are men looking to cause trouble in other countries, that’s absurd, given that able-bodied men are largely being forced into service either for or against Daesh (ISIL) or for or against Assad or both.
  • As a result of that, more than 51 percent of all refugees are children under 17  and 50.5% are women. Men ages 18-59 make up less than 22 percent of all refugees.
  • They’re doing it for the children, clearly. The most commonly cited reasons for fleeing Syria are violence (240,000 dead so far, including more than 12,000 children, so that seems rational), an infrastructure that has all but collapsed in many places, thus denying women, children and everyone else access to healthcare, education and even food, and to protect young children from being recruited as fighters or human shields.

Put simply, Syrian refugees want to come here to give their children a better life. They are pre-screened and we can screen them a second time if we so desire, but most of them are women and children who just want a life in a place that hasn’t been torn apart by war; our fear should not guide us to do the wrong thing.

Could someone nasty slip in through the cracks and cause trouble? Yes, it could happen. Apparently, one attacker in Paris may not have been screened properly by Greek authorities on October 3, when he passed through the island of Leros and registered. Of course, that’s assuming the now-dead attacker was the actual owner of the Syrian passport, which has not been determined as yet. But we’re the “land of the free and the home of the brave;” should millions of people trying to escape war in their own country be denied a life because of that? What kind of country are we becoming? It’s not like we’re going to give them a house and a car and a professional job paying six figures; we’re looking at screening them, giving them a visa and letting them set out on their own to try to make it.

We can’t be like this as a nation; it’s time we got real; when we give up our principles for a little safety, the terrorists have won. That’s exactly what they intend to do.

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