Stop de-Americanizing dissenters

As the situation in Syria deteriorates and events such as the recent Paris attacks worsen fears about general safety, debates on whether or not we should be taking in more refugees are growing increasingly heated. President Obama hopes to take in 10,000 more Syrian refugees this year, but the U.S. Congress, and state governors, remain divided on whether we should support his plan.

In recent weeks, I have seen many people take to Facebook and post or share opinions on the crisis. I have seen the refugee situation compared to times like the Mayflower landing in what is now the United States, and I have seen people describe states that are not taking in refugees as states “surrendering to ISIS.”

I am personally not opposed to Obama’s plan, or the idea in general of taking in more refugees. It is in line with our values to be welcoming to people fleeing difficult situations. Plus, Obama’s plan of allowing 10,000 refugees this year includes a screening process for Syrian refugees more thorough than that of other immigrants.

In the scheme of things, 10,000 is a number far lower than the amount of Syrian refugees much smaller countries in Europe and the Middle East have taken in. According to The Guardian, Sweden took in 13,220 Syrian refugees in 2015 and Germany took in 44,910. Lebanon now has a total of about 1.2 million Syrian refugees, which is 20% of its population. So a country as populated as ours taking in only 10,000 Syrian refugees should not be a serious issue.

That said, it is very upsetting to me the way people have dismissed and criticized the opinions of those opposed to taking in refugees from Syria. Generally, the concerns of governors and people in Congress opposed to Obama’s plan are purely concerns of safety. Senator Marco Rubio, a presidential candidate, stated at a forum hosted by The Wall Street Journal that it was not worth the risk of taking in refugees if any of them at all are going to be a safety concern. “What if we get one of them wrong?” he said. “Just one of them wrong.”

Overall, people opposed to the plan are not opposed to it because they do not want to assist refugees, it is because they do not trust the current screening system. Some, including governors Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire (a Democrat) and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts (a Republican) have stated that they do not believe refugees should be taken in until we have a better screening process, but they are theoretically not opposed to taking in refugees if a better process existed.

The way people who oppose Obama’s plan are being portrayed is unfair because the causes of their beliefs are not being portrayed accurately. They are not “surrendering to ISIS,” or playing into what ISIS wants, because people opposed are generally not saying that they want any of the refugees to actually stay living in oppression in Syria. They are not “un-American” because, whether you disagree with them, I highly doubt that anyone against Obama’s current plan is trying to act against what they believe to be the best interest of the United States.

Lastly, comparing this current situation to times hundreds of years ago like the arrival of the Mayflower simply adds nothing that is useful to the debate. The variables are so different between now and then that the comparison makes no logical sense. If the Native Americans that saw the Pilgrims had any of the technology we have today and had any ideas of the oppression that could occur by welcoming them into what is now the U.S., there’s a good chance that they would not have welcomed the Pilgrims at all.

I have no personal problem with the United States being more welcoming to Syrian refugees, and I have no problem with President Obama’s current plan. However, I am growing more and more upset with the way people who are in disagreement with my views are being portrayed. Even President Obama has called people opposed to his plan “un-American.” There is no way we can have a real discussion (and definitely no way we can do anything to resolve the current refugee crisis) if we are dismissing the arguments of an entire side by giving their beliefs false causes or comparisons.

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