By Luke Swanson
The current Syrian refugee issue is a prime example of when best intentions become murky.
After Russia launched military attacks inside Syria in early October 2015, nearly four million refugees sought asylum in adjacent European nations. Then the vicious attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 rocked the entire globe, and people everywhere reacted with the most primal emotion we have: fear.
Many politicians called for an end to President Obama’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States within the year. Citizens across the nation looked over their shoulders as they entered theaters or arenas, frightened of the possibility that their hometown may be the next San Bernardino.
What is the right thing to do here?
As Americans, we claim this is the best country on Earth, and we say “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But moreover, as Christians, we are called to help the naked, hungry and homeless, because, as Jesus says in Matthew 25, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” It seems like the right thing to do, but many are asking if it’s the smart thing to do.
What should America’s answer be, and how ought we as Christians respond to these refugees?
According to the Migration Policy Institute, the U.S. has resettled 784,000 refugees since 2001, and the total number of people who have been arrested for planning terrorist activities is three—more arrests occur in any given Wal-Mart on Black Friday.
Others worry that America does not have the capability to properly screen the refugees, putting citizens at risk. However, according to Britanny Vanderhoof, a member of the policy council for the U.S. Resettlement Agency, America’s vetting process is extremely thorough, including an identity check with the United Nations, a face-to-face interview with a Department of Homeland Security officer and numerous checks from the FBI, U.S. Intelligence and the Department of Defense.
Terrorists could more easily enter the United States through the Visa Waver Program, which allows foreigners to enter the country with minimal screening like a tourist, than as refugees. The American refugee process is far too rigorous for dangerous people to slip through.
Former Chief Counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Stephen Legomsky said, “No competent terrorist would choose the U.S. refugee process as a preferred strategy for gaining entry into the U.S.” In other words, only the most idiotic ISIS academy dropouts would even try to go through the refugee channels.
Again, I am thinking as both an American and a Christian, two labels I am very proud of. I want every single person in this country to be safe, but I can’t shake what I think to be a divine responsibly to these fearful refugees.
The greatest commandment tells us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In these uncertain times, we have to be better. If the refugees are not our neighbors, who is?
We must be better. In fact, France, a nation that has suffered the deadliest attack on its soil since World War II, has pledged itself to accepting 30,000 refugees in the next two to three years. I hope we can do the same while maintaining security for all—American or foreigner.
Luke Swanson is a junior at Oklahoma Christian University.