Jeff Cowen and Elena Wei

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Dear Editor:

The Voice’s Alex Cole recently wrote an article, “Why America Should not Take in Syrian Refugees”, advocating for the US to halt its acceptance of Syrian and Iraqi refugees onto American soil. This global refugee crisis is the most catastrophic since the Holocaust. America is the world’s superpower, we can’t be afraid to step up during this atrocious human crisis. How we react to this crisis will define our role in world history.

Millions of innocent people are living in constant fear of attack from ISIS. People risk everything, to the point where toddlers drown at sea in an effort to escape danger. Families crowd themselves in refugee shelters with little food, supplies, and safety. Given this global situation, how can the US not help? Our very own iconic Statue of Liberty proclaims: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” When the US turned away the Jews during the Holocaust, millions endured gas chambers and firing squads when they could have experienced freedom instead. Today, innocent Syrians face similar scenarios, such as chemical weapons from Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and the threat of slavery, rape, and execution from ISIS. We must learn from history and avoid past mistakes. We didn’t take in refugees then, but we can take them in now.

Why haven’t we already stepped up, given the circumstances? Many are afraid of terrorist threats. However, there are over 12 million refugees from Syria today, and only twelve have been suspected of being dangerous, all of whom were quickly detained and deported. Even France, a nation recently devastated by a large scale terrorist attack, has not used terrorist threats as reason to halt the flow of refugees. Rather, it has actually increased the number of refugees permitted inside its borders. We must model France’s admirable response to this terrorist attack.

Sure, we need a strong vetting system and a watchful intelligence community to prevent the few dangerous refugees from entering our borders. But to prevent millions of innocent, helpless human beings from receiving the safety they so desperately need is not only irrational, it is heartless. When Mr. Cole refers to Huckabee’s comparison of refugees to “poisonous peanuts,” he captures the very essence of this problematic mindset: dehumanization.  Refugees are people, not peanuts. Therefore, we must treat them as such. They are not faces of terrorism but rather our fellow human beings. If the US acts solely on fear and hysteria, history will forever remember it. So President Obama, members of Congress, let the refugees in.

 

Sincerely,

Jeff Cowen and Elena Wei

 

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