Despite states’ objection, refugees admitted by federal ruling
After the horrifying terrorist attacks in Paris, the issue of allowing Syrian refugees entry into the U.S. has been pushed to the forefront of discussion. On Nov. 16, when Gov. Greg Abbott announced that Texas would not admit Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks, a number of protests took place all over the state.
Democratic presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are encouraging the entrance of Syrian refugees, while many Republican candidates have spoken out against it. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have said that only Christian refugees should be admitted, and Donald Trump shut down the idea and threatened to send them back to Syria.
Multiple states have followed in the footsteps of the Republican candidates. In fact, 31 U.S. states are not welcoming the refugees. This has gotten so serious that Texas state officials have filed a lawsuit to keep out a family of Syrian refugees that arrived in Dallas on Dec. 4. The family consists of a man with his parents, wife and two young children who are being moved to the Dallas area by the International Rescue Committee. The nonprofit is being sued due to reasonable concerns about the safety of the citizens.
Although Abbott gave these orders, he doesn’t have the authority to do so. According to the Supreme Court decision Hines v. Davidowitz, the federal government has supreme say in foreign affairs — including powers of immigration, naturalization and deportation. States are not allowed to overrule the federal authority on these matters, especially since Obama recently announced that the U.S. will be accepting 10,000 Syrian refugees. Additionally, the Refugee Act of 1980 states that the president may admit refugees who face persecution — just like those of the Syrian refugee crisis.
“I understand the fear of terrorism in our American community,” Randa Ahmad, neuroscience sophomore and Syrian, said. “I think it’s just because they’re misinformed, or they don’t want to know the truth. They don’t want to know that these refugees are fleeing the same terrorism that people in America fear.”
Since 2012, the U.S. has accepted 2,174 Syrian refugees. Texas has taken in more than 210 Syrian refugees in the last 14 months. Since 9/11, the U.S has admitted over 750,000 refugees, and none have been involved in acts of terrorism. Even though ISIS and other extremist groups have posed a threat to America since before the Paris attacks, Syrian refugees have still fled to the safety of the United States.
Syrian refugees go through a rigorous screening process when coming to the United States. It can take refugees up to two years to be accepted. They have to register with the U.N. and their refugee status is sent to the U.S. State Department, which then leads to heavy screenings and background checks and meetings with FBI officials. Just over 50 percent of the applicants pass the screening process and half of the refugees admitted are children.
“We are literally turning people away who are in need,” Ahmad said. “I don’t agree with that, even in times like these. Everyone is afraid of ISIS, but this isn’t a way to combat terrorists. It’s going about it the wrong way. I think people are just being xenophobic.”
Some non-Syrians and non-Arabs are also disagreeing with Abbott’s stance.
“Playing devil’s advocate, I can kind of see where (Abbott) is coming from,” political science sophomore Tyler Leadbeater said. “But you shouldn’t turn everyone away. There are bad people in every race and religion. If Abbott opens the door to Syrian refugees, that just lets in more culture, more different ideas, different people.”
Nobody really knows what the fate of the Syrian family moving to Dallas will be — or the fate of the thousands of other Syrian refugees who seek a new home.
“People are forgetting what America started out as,” Ahmad said. “People came here hundreds of years ago because they were being religiously persecuted — kind of like how the refugees are now being persecuted in their home countries. Turning our backs on them, that’s not what America is about.”