I’m hoping that the Executive Order issued by President Trump blocking the entry into the United States of people from seven predominantly Muslim countries has accomplished at least one thing. Americans are now looking at maps to locate these countries, reading to learn something about the Muslim religion, and developing their own opinions rather than just parroting the views of celebrities and the media. At least that is my hope.
Some believe the ban is Trump’s attempt to restrict freedom of religion. (Which is ironic considering there is no freedom of religion in any of those seven countries.) Others are angry simply because Trump issued the Order, not bothering to recognize that the list was initiated by President Obama.
Those who believe we should readily accept tens of thousands of refugees need to be careful what they are wishing for. I am sure Angela Merkel is wishing she had pursued a more cautious approach to accepting refugees from these same countries. Assimilating these refugees is going to be a huge challenge and we need to learn from the experience of others.
What is motivating these refugees to flee their countries is the daily hell in which they are living, and we have contributed to creating that hell with our misguided foreign policy over the last twenty-five years. To many, we are “the enemy”. Our two cultures could not be more different. However this does not give us an excuse to turn our backs on these refugees.
The American people are the most generous people in the world when it comes to helping those in need and we have a moral obligation to help, but we must be careful that we do not create another problem while trying to solve this one.
Young male refugees, with no family, could create a significant risk if given easy entry into our country. They may have lost friends or family and blame us. Estimates of civilian casualties since we invaded Iraq in 2003 vary but even the most conservative estimates are in the hundreds of thousands. You and I may not think of these refugees as our enemy, but what do they think of us? Try empathizing with them. They will arrive “here” with little or no education, no marketable skills, and no ability to speak English or Spanish. They may have escaped the hell of war but life will not be easy. It is my fear that we may end up creating a pool of “dream candidates” for Jihadist Recruiters to radicalize.
Perhaps our intentions in the Middle East were good, but like all occupying forces throughout history, any goodwill created was lost long ago. And now it’s not clear whom we should support in these civil wars.
Our current immigration procedures and policies fall well short of what we need to do if we truly want to help, but it is going to require more than a strict vetting procedure. If we are serious about helping these refugees we need to establish a government program enabling Americans to sponsor these refugees and assist in their assimilation. Surely out of a country of 325 million people we could find a 100 thousand individuals or families throughout this country willing to help. If not there will be very little assimilation. Simply giving them permission to legally live and work in the United States is not a solution.
So when we hold up a sign that says “You Are Welcome Here” we need to think of what “here” means to each of us. Do we mean you are welcome “here in the United States”, “here in our own community”, “here in our neighborhood”, or “here in our spare bedrooms”. It’s easy to hold up a sign expressing support for these refugees but we need a comprehensive plan of action and not just demonstrations and slogans.