Reflections on Syrian Refugee Debate

By Pedro Enamorado

Reflections on our Event: Syrian Refugees in the US: A Humanitarian Obligation or a National Security Threat?

As a Christian Conservative, I regret to say I hadn’t give the Syrian refugee crisis enough thought. The cause of the refugee and the immigrant is dear to me, especially as I am the son of Honduran immigrants and I feel bound to the command to care for the foreigner among us. Naturally, I was glad to hear Buckley Program’s Firing Line participants present two views of how the government should respond to letting in foreigners. Both speakers made their cases using economic and practical approaches, however, they avoided using moral arguments and appeals to compassion. This is one weakness I found in their arguments as they mostly spoke of “reducing harm” or having an equal obligation to those with poor quality of life among us. I feel that any discussion of taking in the oppressed should appeal to actively pursuing justice and mercy as a society, not just keeping the US out of other nation’s affairs or doing as little damage as possible. What I most appreciated was that both speakers rightly exposed security screening as a useless and ineffective fiction. They conceded that it merely served as a talking point for politicians discussing the crisis today.

Still, I found many of the considerations valid and convincing. Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute proposed encouraging immigration and refugee resettlement with as few barriers as possible for the notable economic benefits it brings to society. He insisted on government promoting a private sponsorship model of refugee resettlement, removing the red tape and (inefficiently spent) taxpayer money going to support resettlement. Considering how few Syrian refugees get in through the currently lottery system (compared to the quota), this approach might free individuals and organizations to do much good. Mark Kirkorian responded with the opposite assertion that barriers to resettlement should be high for the good of the nation. I feel he did little to justify his position, neither countering Alex’ points on the economic benefits of immigration, or showing that Americans are as opposed to it as he is, since he appealed to democratic ideals. But he made a good case that refugee aid would serve refugees who resettle in the Middle East more effectively and allow us to support more refugees that way.

Ultimately, although this Refugee crisis has polarized American public opinion it is important to recognize that all sides of this debate have valid contributions toward finding a solution. I enjoyed hearing the Buckley Program speakers debate the topic and I look forward to refining my view on the subject even more.

Pedro is a Junior in Ezra Stiles College.