America is a melting pot; at least that is what I was taught. A melting pot that melds cultures, races, ethnicities and genders all into one colorful combination we call our nation. That is how America is supposed to be. People living among others regardless of which God they pray to or the color of their skin.
But now, with the fragility of our sense of safety, we, as a nation, have decided to lock our doors. As a nation, we have determined that the admission of Syrian refugees will halt, simply because of ignorance.
The attacks last year in France and this year in Belgium were certainly shocking and gave an astounding amount of attention to the refugee topic.
Fairly enough, when a Syrian passport was found on one of the bombers that took part in the attacks, the resettlement process began to be reanalyzed.
At first glance, it is, of course, frightening to think that a terrorist could easily slip through our boundaries and hurt our nation. I encourage all, however, to take a step back and look at what the U.S. resettlement policy really entails.
Since the civil war in Syria started, about 1,800 refugees have come to the U.S. and have been spread across 35 states. Many assume that the refugees admitted are armed men, when in fact nearly half of them are children. Also, these refugees are coming in by the hundreds, not by the hundreds of thousands.
President Barack Obama’s original plan was to bring at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into America by the end of this year. While this number seems large, it dims in comparison to the number of refugees other countries have taken in.
Germany, for example, has admitted just over 98,000 refugees from Syria alone.
Regardless of numbers, refugees must apply through the United Nations and be screened by databases run by the FBI, Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security and State Department before being accepted. This security process is stricter than the one used for the millions of foreign visitors and thousands of foreign students who come into the U.S. each year.
Along with these vigorous screenings, these refugees are also responsible for finding jobs; they are not handed them. Once the refugees begin to work, the cost of their plane ticket must be repaid, and they become responsible for paying rent as well as any other needs they may have.
The scariest and most common worry about allowing Syrians into the U.S. is that ISIS or other extremist groups will sneak a terrorist into our country.
However, refugees are put under the highest level of security checks of any foreign traveler. Therefore, it makes no operational sense for a terrorist group such as ISIS to “take advantage” of the refugee program.
It would be much easier for ISIS to send someone into the U.S. from Europe as a foreigner, rather than going through the lengthy (up to two-year) process of being accepted to the U.S. as a refugee.
Does it not scare you that our nation can draw an imaginary line between you and Syrians and deny help to families just like us?
This is not caused by terrorism: not by the attacks in Paris or Brussels, not Syrians, not Muslims, but Americans. I may be speaking as part of a minority, but I would much rather live in a country that welcomes with open arms those in crisis rather than turning its back.That is the America I was taught to believe in. That is my melting pot.
Olivia Belanger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org