By Jeanine Erikat
To the 26 governors refusing refugees,
I would like to begin this letter by stressing the fact that unless you are Native American, all Americans are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, some of which were refugees. In fact, roughly 33.3 million Americans identify as Irish. The Irish potato famine of the 1840s brought 500,000 Irish immigrants who were in dire need of assistance — penniless, homeless and dying; refugees in their own way. After World War II, 400,000 Eastern Europeans fled to America. At the beginning of the Vietnam War, the U.S. sponsored an evacuation of approximately 125,000 Vietnamese refugees. Then, in 1975, the second wave of Vietnamese immigration brought civilians — “Boat People” — into the U.S.
So why can’t we help Syrians — new people in a new era — escape death and turmoil?
These refugees have fled by unimaginable means: boats with holes, days without food and warmth, having risked not only their own lives but their children’s too. A parent does not put a child in that situation unless it is the lesser of two evils.
The argument that these Syrian refugees are violent is simply untrue. These refugees have sacrificed everything to escape the brutality the Assad regime is putting on its own people, not to mention the brutality ISIS commits in Syria. The argument that the refugees are ISIS sympathizers does not make sense simply because who roots for their enemy?
These refugees are pleading and begging for help. If they are brought over to America it’s not that they’ll be living solely off of the government, as opposers indignantly say they will. If you give them work, they will work long and hard hours. All these refugees want is food, shelter, and most importantly, a sense of security.
The fear these refugees must feel everyday is unimaginable. Generations have been scarred by warfare, the innocence of children has been stolen, the promise of ease with old age gone, the hopes and dreams of parents to see their children growing up in their village have been wiped. The lives of these refugees, along with any semblance of a future, have been ruined just like the buildings in their towns that have been through grenades, artillery fire and airstrikes.
These refugees live on a day to day basis. As a country that considers itself a responsible agent of the free world, with the means and resources we have, I don’t see why we cannot open our borders to Syrian refugees. So I, an American citizen, plea for you to reconsider your decision, because as people who believe in the American dream and second chances, as people in power, you should be the first to welcome refugees.
I ask you to respond to the call to action and help these Syrian refugees who have nothing left. I ask you to help them have a second chance at life and more importantly, help them have the life that was stolen from them. We can’t give them the Syria they mourn, but we can give them a better life than them seeking shelter at borders. As winter nears, let’s make decisions soon.