Home of the Scared: Let’s not do to the Syrians what we did to the Jews

Jordan A. Sprogis


I’m starting to wonder whether people forgot that the photos they shared of the families who drowned in the Mediterranean were Syrians, or if they’ve just become rather xenophobic since then.

After Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that Connecticut would continue allowing Syrian refugees into the state, the decision sparked a statewide argument over whether or not it was the right thing to do. Since the Paris attacks, many worry that terrorists will sneak into the US among the refugees.

 “You want to let refugees in this state and endanger my kids? I don’t think so,” says Gary Pellini from Stamford of Malloy. 

 Instead of being concerned about the 142 US school shootings that have occurred since Sandy Hook in 2012, you’re worried about refugees escaping war…

 The Economist says that more than 750,000 refugees have been resettled in America since 9/11, and not one has been arrested on domestic terrorism charges.

“I don’t see other countries taking in the Syrian refugees,” says Mary Johnson* on a CT community page. “Why does the US have to?”

 More than 2.1 million Syrians registered by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) are in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. The UK government also promises to accept up to 1,000 refugees by Christmas. 

 Similar questions were asked leading up to World War II. Two polls from 1938 and 1939 have resurfaced, reflecting the American people’s thoughts on taking in refugees – and it seems that we’ve always been sticklers.

In 1938, Americans were asked what they thought about the US taking in German and Austrian refugees. 67.4 percent of voters said, “We should try to keep them out.”

 In 1939, Americans were asked whether or not the government should permit 10,000 Jewish refugees (mostly children) into the US. 61 percent of voters said, “No.”

 About 40 years later, the Refugee Act of 1980 was founded. And according to the act, it is our duty to take in the vulnerable. It recognizes that the US must respond to the urgent needs of people subject to persecution in their homelands and to provide assistance, asylum, and resettlement opportunities.

 Earlier this month, Donald Trump said that letting Syrians into the US could easily result as “one of the great Trojan horses” because the US is “the worst when it comes to paperwork.”

 If Trump says this, that must mean that we can’t trust our government to screen properly, right?

Don’t worry, Don: the screening process to become a refugee is a long and detailed one. Applications typically take 12 to 18 months, but take longer for Syrians due to security concerns:

  1. Potential refugees have to apply for asylum through UNHCR. The organization decides who is considered a refugee based on the Refugee Convention of 1951.
  2. If the refugee meets the conditions, then the applicant may be referred for resettlement in a third country, such as the US.
  3. If they are referred to the US, the application is processed by a federally funded resettlement support center, which gathers information about the candidate to prepare for a screening process, including an interview and a medical evaluation, aimed to ensure that the refugee does not pose a threat to the US.
  4. A second interview from the Department of Homeland Security is used for Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
  5. A security screening is run by several security agencies such as the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Defense Department, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the FBI.
  6. Once the process is completed at least 12-18 months later, the individual is placed with a resettlement agency in the US. The agency will help with language and finding employment.  

Someone asked me, “Well, are you letting any refugees into your home?”

 No, because you do not have to take Syrians into your home. You can if you want to, but that’s what resettlement organizations are for. 

 The State Department works with non-profit placement agencies and local communities to find new homes for refugees. First and foremost, they try to place them with friends and family, but if they do not have any, then they will be placed randomly across the US.

“Randomly placed” sounds pretty vague, so the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration have provided a 35-page directory listing all of the refugee centers in the US, complete with locations, phone numbers, and names of organizations.

 Malloy is taking a lot of criticism for sticking to the Refugee Act, but by doing so without being pushed, it shows that he understands it is not only our legal duty but also our moral duty to help people who are in dire situations.

 “Let’s let the government continue to vet the refugees,” says Tracie Bell Nixon of New Milford. “They have a good success record. Let’s welcome our neighbors.”

 Last time we didn’t, a guy named Adolf Hitler committed a mass genocide.

 * Name was changed to keep anonymity. 


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