In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote that all people are entitled to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
These are the ideals that America declares to fight for whenever we enter a war — whether it be to form a republic two centuries ago or to fight terrorism in the Middle East today. It has become our goal as a country to grant the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to a larger population.
And yet, in early December 2015, Texas tried to sue the federal government to block a family of Syrian refugees from settling there.
Can a person pursue happiness in a country ravaged by the Islamic State? Can Americans declare to stand for democracy while closing their doors to those who are trying to pursue what we call their natural rights?
Turning our backs on refugees is turning our backs on our history. The Puritans that settled modern-day Massachusetts were fleeing religious persecution by the Church of England. One of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton — who helped win popular support for our Constitution — was an immigrant from the West Indies. America was built on the backs of refugees.
Some still say, ‘Fine, let in refugees — just not the Syrian ones.’ To say we shouldn’t let in refugees because of their nationality is both hypocritical and irresponsible. Most of the protests come from those who preach about not letting in terrorists from Syria.
The November Paris attacks, which succeeded in causing even more Islamophobic hysteria, were carried out, in part, by Frenchmen.
Terrorists don’t come from Syria. Terrorists are the product of hard times and clever propaganda, which reaches to every corner of the Earth. You cannot judge whether someone is dangerous based on a country of origin.
A report published by the United Nations estimates that over one million migrants entered Europe in 2015, and it is predicted that the majority will apply for asylum (the latter makes them refugees as opposed to immigrants, according to the New York Times). Most of these refugees were displaced by conflict in the Middle East.
We can’t pretend that the refugee crisis is somebody else’s problem. The refugee crisis is everybody’s problem. There are too many people — men, women and children — being displaced for the world, and particularly the U.S., to pretend to have nothing to do with it. The conflict in the Middle East has raged for over a decade thanks to our involvement.
The terrorist attacks that occur on American soil are perpetrated by all kinds of people. The assailant in the Umpqua Community College shooting in Roseburg, Oregon was not Syrian, nor a refugee, nor did he aim to make a statement in the name of the Islamic State. The largest U.S. terrorist massacre since 9/11 — which occurred in San Bernadino, California — was perpetrated by an American citizen and a Pakistani national (not a refugee).
Refugees are fleeing from such bloodshed — if they loved the way things were going in the Middle East, they would stay there. Any politicians who say otherwise are trying to fear-monger their way up the political latter.
An American cannot uphold democratic values and decry the settlement of refugees in the U.S. at the same time. The problem is not just the politicians; it is the American people who support and regurgitate the politicians’ hate-filled rhetoric. In doing so we pigeonhole an entire society of people without grounds. And that is the worst form of hypocrisy.