Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Syrian Refugee Dilemma

     The Syrian refugee crisis is a heart-rending example of man's inhumanity to man.  The Middle East, no stranger to wickedness on a grand scale, is a house on fire.  While many of its victims are truly innocent, some are likely not.

NBC News ran an interesting segment recently focusing upon some of the heated rhetoric regarding this divisive issue. While hardly representative of objective, non-biased journalism, it's worth a watch. Our nation has a rich heritage of immigration, and no thinking, rational person would contend otherwise. As a Judeo-Christian country, our faith traditions were deeply influenced by a particular refugee named Abraham.

8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[b]considered him faithful who had made the promise. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (Hebrews 11:8-12)

     The question in the particular case of the Syrian refugee crisis, however, is a different one than we've faced in the past. There are serious questions as to our ability properly and thoroughly vet the individuals applying for asylum in the United States. One also is reminded of possible connections of Syrian refugees with the horrific attack in Paris. All answers are not known, and the remaining mysteries may never be solved. There are valid reasons for concern. A knowledgeable friend shared the following words, which I will quote in full.

The short term: Who’s who?

What to do about those terrorists/wannabe terrorists that pass themselves off as just another refugee trying to escape oppression and start a new life? Well, I do think the rather long period it takes now (18 months plus is what I’m reading?) to get vetted before being allowed into the U.S. works in our favor because it can filter out those who were not entirely committed, convinced by emotion alone. But how to filter out the truly committed? There is no litmus test during the security screening parts of the vetting.

So in my view what we’re truly considering is:
1. Will there be terrorists/those with terrorist ambitions who will try to get in through this process? 
I absolutely believe the answer is yes.
2. If the answer to 1 is yes, then will, at least, some of those actually get through the process and enter the U.S. in this way?
I have no reason to believe they would not. Does anyone? How much cooperation do you think we’re getting from the Govt(?) of Syria in doing criminal record searches? How much biometric data do you think we have on terrorist wannabes from Syria? As for intel I can’t say but as you might imagine there are many, many, many names of Syrians that sound/read exactly alike (and/or are Romanized differently for the same person!). You can’t just run these guys through an NCIC.
3. If the answer to 2 is yes, then we turn to the moral(?) question: Do we take this risk anyway? Are we as a people willing to take in thousands knowing/believing that at least a few likely have terrorist ambitions and know-how?

The long term: Disaffected, disconnected, unemployed, and unassimilated.

After the refugees are placed (“resettled”) in communities in the U.S., what will be their future? Most will have few skills, most won’t speak any English. What are the odds that most will assimilate into American culture and adopt American values? Will they be inclined to do so if they can’t begin to make a living in short order? And if not, what’s the likely result? Alienation, resentment, anger, listlessness? Will they then be tempted toward a more radical interpretation of their faith. (Most, of course, will be Muslim.) What kind of social support structures, job training programs, and so on, can we put in place in these communities to help keep that from happening? Can anything be done? What will be their affect on native, if you’ll forgive the term, population and norms—will they be displaced? (See, for example, communities such as that in Leeds, England.)

The longer term: Disaffected, disconnected youth looking for a cause.

The vast majority of the immigrant generation will almost certainly remain poor because that’s the nature of this type of immigration. How will that affect the next generation—those born here? Some or perhaps even many parents will have embraced their new country and recognize and appreciate the escape from their previous situation and the freedoms and potential opportunities here in America. Nevertheless, the combination of growing up poor and culturally different sometimes engenders resentment by the next generation not felt by the immigration generation. (I’m trying to avoid the ambiguous terms “first generation” and “second generation” because that can be interpreted differently.) And that can encourage them to seek out striking back or at least being vulnerable to those that would seek to convince them that they are actively discriminated against by the infidels, they have betrayed Islam, and should right themselves by committing to jihad. (See, for example, the Lackawanna Six here in the U.S.)

     I suggest that we've lost a degree of common sense these days, and that more than ever we're influenced by sound bites and pictures that pull on our heartstrings.  This matter requires deep thought and a careful, measured response.  Pacifism at all costs, like open borders, is a pathway to a nation's destruction (from both the inside and out).  A government's responsibility is to protect its people, and the peoples' responsibility is to be informed citizens.  Sadly, we're losing the battle on both fronts.  

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

Isaac Asimov

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