University students advocate for admittance of refugees
Hostility toward refugees increases distance between cultures and worlds rather than forging powerful positive relationships between the two, said Rachel Greco, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
On Nov. 16, Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) publicly opposed the United States' acceptance of refugees from Syria.
Christie added he does not think even orphans under the age of five should be admitted to the United States because he finds them as a threat to “the safety and security of the American people,” according to an NJ.com article.
His stance on the humanitarian issue is unpopular with some Rutgers students.
“If he’s afraid of letting in ISIS members, he won’t find them in the women and children trying to survive,” said Mona Abouzid, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
Of 750,000 refugees the United States has taken in the last 15 years, only three have been arrested for terrorist ideation, and zero have carried out an act of terror, said Kyle Bright, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.
“There are valid safety concerns over the admittance of refugees, and obviously we're in a heightened state of fear after the acts of terror in Paris and the countless other atrocities that have been attributed to ISIS,” Greco said. “To not be somewhat afraid is to be blindly optimistic or willfully ignorant. However, I believe that in times like these, basic humanity must prevail over our fear.”
Bright added that the United States has an 18 to 24 month vetting process where refugees confront many government agencies.
A Politifact article from earlier this month explained Syrian refugees specifically must have their documents cross-referenced and examined in an additional round of screening, taking a year minimum, before an individual even reaches the country.
Yet politicians such as Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) and Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) continue to protest President Barack Obama’s lax policies on Syrian resettlement and claim they will deny entry to any and all refugees, according to ThinkProgress.org.
While their rhetoric indicates one protocol, the law states otherwise.
"The supremacy of the national power in the general field of foreign affairs, including power over immigration, naturalization and deportation, is made clear by the Constitution," ThinkProgress.org said in reference to the case of Hines v. Davidowitz.
Essentially, states cannot supersede decisions established by the national government.
School of Arts and Sciences senior May Issa said she feels personally attacked by politicians’ reaction to Syria because of her Arab origin. She cited French political activist Jean-Paul Sartre saying that “when the rich make war, it is the poor that die.”
“This isn’t directly related to the topic, but the quote supports how I feel about the fact that politicians, specifically, a lot of rich people in Western countries, have the audacity to not only not do anything to help Syrians, but also fight their livelihood in countries after escaping war,” Issa said.
“After the Paris attacks, it showed how reactionary Americans really are. Rather than protecting those in desperate need, we accuse them of crimes they did not commit,” said Samaa Elbery, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “(The hate and ignorance) will continue for a while, unfortunately.”
Much of this ignorance is aroused simply by Western culture, according to Arun Kundnani, a professor in Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. In his book, “The Muslims are Coming!,” he said Islamic culture is unable to adapt to modernity and the roots of terrorism are not directed from Islam, but were developed in the twentieth century by a variety of backward ideologies based on communism and fascism.
Kundnani said these mentalities are problematic because they ignore the geopolitical circumstances that would cause such radicalism to occur.
Bright agrees that the U.S.’s ulterior motives obscure situations such as the refugee crisis. He said the U.S. uses Syria as a proxy war for its own interests.
“But when that leads to destabilization and problems, it’s wrong to then say, ‘Oh no, we don’t actually want to help the people adversely affected,’” Bright said.
Elbery and School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, Yousuf Abdelfatah, both said that the U.S. was built on the backs of refugees, and to deny them entry is to be hypocritical.
“If we allow fear to deviate us from our ideals, then we allow the terrorists to win,” Abdelfatah said.