By Justin Cha
In early September, an image of a drowned toddler, washed ashore on the Turkish coast, went viral as it showed the plight of Syrian refugees. The child was one of twelve Syrian refugees who died trying to flee to the Greek Island of Kos. Although the European Union has long been dealing with a widespread migrant crisis, it has only just recently been brought to global attention. While Great Britain and France have agreed to accept tens of thousands of refugees, other countries, such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, are reluctant to take responsibility for the crisis.
Based on estimates from the United Nations, over 800,000 refugees are expected to enter the countries comprising the European Union by next year. However, the United States is still debating whether or not to take action. Prompt humanitarian action on behalf of the United States is necessary, and the nation must accept these refugees.
During a visit to Berlin last week, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US would take in 70,000 refugees later this year. Kerry also declared that the US would take in 85,000 refugees in 2016, followed by 100,000 more in 2017. This recent bold move by the Obama administration has attracted the ire of many Americans. A Reuters poll from this month found that nearly a third of Americans opposed the arrival of more Syrian immigrants, whereas a fifth of all Americans suggested that the US should take more action.
By accepting refugees, the US can show that it is willing to be both responsible and accountable for its past actions in the Middle East. By gaining a more favorable reputation in the Middle East, the US could work with those countries to prevent future crises and to diminish the consequences of existing ones
Additionally, accepting a massive number of refugees could lead to greater action on behalf of the other Middle Eastern countries. Critics point out that the more affluent countries near Syria, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, can also accept refugees, but refrain from doing so.
Additionally, if the US takes initiative, this can mount pressure on its Middle Eastern allies to assist as well. If other Middle Eastern countries assist refugees, the European countries will have a smaller burden to shoulder. A greater international effort in this situation will solve the problem more efficiently and effectively. Furthermore, the US can get better public relations in the field of global politics.
Unfortunately, European governments, like Germany’s, have found terrorists and radicals within these swathes of refugees. While these types of individuals exist, the vast majority of refugees are simply seeking security. Although the US has to take greater precautions in screening these migrants, the majority of them may be of benefit to the United States and its economy.
While some refugees may never integrate into our society, it’s important to point out that total assimilation into a new culture takes years. Rather than seeing these migrants as pests who will leech off the benefits America has to provide, we should see them as investments. These migrants can benefit our society in the future.
With the instability of the Middle East after the Arab Spring event, the global population can expect more situations like these to occur. As terrorist regimes battle with local and national governments, these nations’ civilians will have to pay the price. However, since the Middle East is largely complacent, refugees will continue to seek entry into Europe. It would be unfair for allies of the United States to bear the burdens of our decisions.
As the United States combats ISIS, we must be aware that peace is achieved not through victory, but by mutual respect on both sides. From the last 14 years, we have learned that military intervention is not the only path to resolution. For the United States, humanitarian action is equally (if not more) important. If the US accepts these refugees, it will demonstrate that it genuinely wants international security and peace.
As a country of immigrants, it shouldn’t be hard for the United States to empathize with its fellow world citizens. While it’s true that the US will have to pay for the costs and expenses of taking action, these are actions that are globally beneficial. While such an action seems large at hand, it is a small step that can catalyze more progress in the future.
Despite the fears and diatribes against such action, the U.S. should ultimately take in these refugees. As a leader in global politics, the US can ultimately rectify the situation by taking the initiative on a firsthand basis. By taking in these refugees, the US can hopefully right the wrongs of its recent foreign policy. The US, as a world superpower and catalyst for this crisis, holds an obligation to assist these refugees. After all, the Statue of Liberty states “give me your tired. . .your huddled masses yearning to be free.”
Justin Cha is a first-year pharmaceutical sciences major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.