We are in the middle of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Over 65 million people around the world are displaced, the vast majority coming from Iraq and Syria: regions of high military escalation. We must exercise U.S. leadership in the world as more than military strength, and help to safely resettle refugees and address the root causes of their displacement so they can return to their homes.
This is the Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since World War II
65.3 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced, 21.3 million of whom are refugees, and over half of the refugees are under the age of 18, the UNHCR reports. 54% of refugees are from one of the 3 countries: Syria, Afghanistan, or Somalia. 50% of Syria’s population has been displaced, with 7.6 million internally displaced. The U.S. has active military operations in all three of these countries, which is not a coincidence. 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day as a result of conflict or persecution. We cannot routinely occupy and bomb and use drone strikes against these countries, knowingly causing large numbers of civilian casualities, and then do nothing when their people flee our weapons and their homes.
The UN Needs Stronger Financial Commitments to Address the Crisis
The UN appeal for Syrian refugees is just 40% funded. Funding shortages have dire consequences. The most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive less than half a dollar a day for food assistance. While the U.S. has given $4B to the UN to address the crisis, this is a tiny fraction of what we could do. $4B is less than 1% of the U.S. military budget. If a larger fraction of the military budget dealt with the consequences of military intervention abroad, we could more quickly resolve the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Security Screening of Refugees for U.S. Resettlement is Exceptionally Thorough
Refugees are the most carefully vetted of all travelers to the United States: the approval process takes on average 18-24 months. The security process includes: finger printing, biometric checks, several background checks and biographical screening, medical checks, lengthy in-person interviews by the Department of Homeland Security officers and security checks by the FBI, National Counterterrorism Center, the Department of Defense and the Department of State. Suggestions that terrorists would use this method to get into the U.S. are ill-informed. Of the 785,000 refugees admitted through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program since 9/11, only about a dozen were arrested/removed from the U.S. due to security concerns. None of these people were Syrian. Statements from U.S. politicians that all Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S. is a violation of religious freedom, as protected by the U.S. constitution.
The United States Must Accept More Refugees for Resettlement
After the wars in Southeast Asia, the United States resettled 111,000 Vietnamese refugees in 1979 and 207,000 Vietnamese refugees in 1980. President Obama pledged that, by the end of September 2016, the U.S. would accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees, and we may not meet that modest goal.