Today marks the 5th anniversary of Syria’s civil war. Over the past 5 years, an average of 50 Syrian families have been uprooted every hour. More than 12 million people still don’t have access to clean water and nearly 9 million don’t have enough to eat. The U.S. has contributed to the violence, conducting over 10,000 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq since 2014.
Tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee will take up the so-called “Refugee Program Integrity Restoration Act of 2016,” H.R. 4731. This mean-spirited bill would reduce refugee admissions and tie the hands of the U.S. Government as it attempts to provide critical humanitarian aid to refugees. Meanwhile on the campaign trail, politicians like Donald Trump are amplifying the politics of fear and threatening to evict innocent refugees.
There are glimmers of hope: Other Congressional proposals, like the People’s Budget, would enable the U.S. to safely screen and resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees next year. The recently negotiated “cessation of hostilities” has drastically decreased the violence and allowed humanitarian assistance to reach civilians. Just yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will immediately withdraw its main forces from Syria. While we must wait to see how these developments progress, they represent positive steps towards peace.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is engraved on the statue of liberty for a reason. Throughout history, the U.S. has offered refuge to people fleeing persecution, torture, and terror. This debate is over whether or not to welcome a limited number of refugee families and children who seek the American values of safety and freedom. Our nation is strong and secure enough to live up to our best traditions and safely welcome Syrian refugees.