Syrian refugees and America: Myths and realities

Orient Net - Gulf News 2016-09-01 06:20:00

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On the hot issue of admitting Syrian refugees to the US, Gordon Robison writes in Gulf News that there is nothing to be proud of as the set number of 10,000 is a painfully small one compared to what European and Middle Eastern countries are struggling to cope with — and miniscule in terms of the broader Syrian refugee crisis.

Robison writes: “Yet an even more difficult question remains to be answered: What will happen after November’s presidential election in the US? Obviously, if Republican nominee Donald Trump wins, it is likely that the US will simply stop taking in refugees — not just from Syria, but from the rest of the world as well.”

But it is fair to ask whether things will be much better with Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton in the White House, at least where Syrians are concerned, Robison goes on to say, adding that given what the politics of immigration is in America these days, will Hillary carry forward even the limited refugee policy of the Obama administration?

“Hillary’s website offers detailed position summaries on more than three dozen issues from America’s tax system to rights for the disabled to the survival of family farms. The list contains no issue paper specifically on Syria, though, and the only reference to refugees that I could find was the following sentence: ‘Hillary will focus on detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety and ensure refugees who seek asylum in the US have a fair chance to tell their stories,’” Robison says.

“The most charitable interpretation of this is that Hillary wants to be at least as open as the Obama administration has been to people fleeing Syria, but is reluctant to say so. Amid America’s current climate of fear and paranoia surrounding immigration in general and immigration from the Middle East in particular, there are few votes to be won on this issue and, potentially, many to be lost.

“What makes this worse is that Hillary, by skating around the issue, is implicitly validating Trump’s false accusation that she favours completely open borders,” the goes on to say.

“In such a situation, will Hillary be willing to spend her precious store of political capital on Syria? It seems highly unlikely. It is not that she lacks compassion, but governing is about making hard choices. Syria is a moral and humanitarian disaster, but it does not impact the daily lives of very many Americans. She won’t pander to voters’ fears — but it is hard to see her taking a bold stand against people screaming about terrorist sleeper cells if doing so undercuts support for her broader political agenda.”

The writer concludes: “That is a harsh assessment, but probably a realistic one. Far too many Americans look at Syrian refugees today and see only potential terrorists. Sadly, that is unlikely to change, regardless of who moves into the White House next January. More US aid may head to the camps, but few refugees will be heading to safety in America.”

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