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Prince Amir Al Saud

Opening Pandora’s Box: The Syrian Refugee Crisis in the US

The 4-year Syrian conflict has displaced more than 12 million people, half of whom are innocent Syrian children. A quarter of these have been living in spiteful conditions in tents and makeshift shelters in refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. The rest have created a widespread exodus into the European continent where majority are flocking into liberal Germany. And while the European continent is struggling to manage the swelling numbers of refugees each day, the US government cannot simply sit back and watch as hundreds of thousands of children and the vulnerably weak succumb to harsh elements, malnutrition, and highly preventable diseases.

Such has been the primary reason why the United States government is aiming to relocate 1.2 million Syrians into the country by next year, 2016. While the plan is laudable, there are certain sectors of the American society that strongly disagrees with the plan. The images of the Twin Towers collapsing on 9/11 after being hit by two hijacked planes are still very vivid for some, especially among those who have lost their loved ones in the infamous attack on American soil. The 9/11 incident spurred the then-George W. Bush administration to label the attack as the work of Islamic Jihadists, prompting many to see Muslims as terrorist. Does this mean the government had a change of heart?

Many opponents to the whole Syrian refugee program see it as a golden opportunity for terrorist cells that may already be working inside these refugee groups to gain backdoor access into American society. For example, a UN report said that the ranks of foreign Jihadists on ISIL has grown to 71 percent, now numbering 25,000. These foreign ISIL members have their respective Western homelands which they can return to anytime. While the defense network of governments are keeping tabs on the identity of these foreigners, there are still lapses in security measures such as what happened in the Bata clan attacks in Paris a couple of weeks ago where 90 people lost their lives. No amount of security preparations can thwart the dedication and commitment of terrorists.

Proponents of the program however point out that the Syrian refugee program will be strictly implemented, with layers upon layers of background checks and other security activities. Since the Syrian conflict broke out in 2011, the US has been receiving Syrian refugees referred by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Of the 23,092 referred, only 7,014 Syrians have been interviewed by the US Department of Homeland Security, admitting only 2,034. This shows the very strict requirements being observed by the US government when it comes to the screening of Syrian refugee claims. Nonetheless, if there is one out of the 2,000 individuals who turns out to be a member of a sleeper cell, will that not endanger the lives of millions of Americans on American soil?

The US Government is prioritizing Syrian children, victims of torture and violence, people with medical conditions, and women in its screening process. However, if this is indeed true, this will heavily burden the already-battered healthcare delivery system, not to mention the foster care system. There is also a question as to who will be responsible for the debriefing and psychological counseling and treatment these individuals require? All victims of violence will have post-traumatic stress disorder and may present with a variety of psychiatric-mental health issues that requires professional help. Is the American public ready to shelter an emotionally-scarred, mentally-unstable individual?

While condition of Syrian refugees, especially the children, is indeed deplorable, the US government needs to really weigh its priorities straight. On one hand, opening its doors in the name of humanitarian needs can expose it to backdoor terrorist access. On the other hand, keeping the gates closed projects a certain air of arrogance, indifference, and apathy which can further alienate Americans from the rest of the world.   

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