In the wake of the terrible terrorist attacks in Paris, American politicians have started quacking at eachother angrily from opposite sides of the isle, debating whether to admit Syrian refugees into the United States. Conservatives, including the Republican Presidential candidates, argue against admitting Syrian refugees, especially any Muslim ones. Both Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz want to admit only Christian Syrians – which definitely violates the constitution they claim to love so much. Donald Trump doesn’t want to let in any refugees at all and goes so far as to speculate that “this could be one of the great Trojan horses” …
Not surprisingly, this is not the first time that Americans have debated whether or not to admit refugees of a particular religion. In 1939, there were similar debates over whether to admit European Jews who were fleeing the Nazis, who had begun the jewish persecution. Kristallnacht took place in November, 1938, the horrible night when Nazi authorities and German citizens rapaging through city streets destroying Jewish homes, schools, businesses, synagogues and hospitals. This escalated over the next seeral years and resulted, as we are all painfully aware, in the ugliest genocide in human history.
Moreover, it was not a secret. Journalists all over the world reported the events of Kristallnacht as they were unfolding, and Americans therefore knew that the Jews were in extreme danger in Germany and Austria. In January, 1939, the US government considered taking in 10,000 refugee children, most of them Jewish, from Germany. A poll was taken and 61 percent of Americans voted against helping Jewish refugees, even if they were children. The poll then broke the respondents down by religion: Protestant, Catholic or Jewish. Not surprisingly, most of the Jews voted in favor of taking in the refugees. Over 80 percent of the Christians, however, voted against admitting the refugees. Sound familiar?
The US continued to keep refugees out. While 85,000 Jewish refugees did successfully make it into the United States between March 1938 and September 1939, tens of thousands did not. 125,000 refugees lined up outside consulates in late 1938. The immigration quota of the day provided visas for only 27,000 people. In put that in another way, there were nearly five times as many refugees as there were visas. So by June 1939, the situation had only grown worse, with over 300,000 refugees applying for visas. So what did the great US of A do? Well, in 1941, the US Department of State actually made the rules for immigration stricter and made it harder for Jews seeking sanctuary to get in—despite the reports of both atrocious human rights violations and Hitler’s plans to exterminate the entire Jewish race. This situation is horrifyingly similar to the one we are in today with the Syrian Refugee crisis.
To his credit, President Obama has spoken out in favor of accepting the Syrian refugees, announcing in September his plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees, reminding people that they are themselves the victims of terrorists. He has also pointed out that planning to accept only the Christian refugees is morally reprehensible, and radically bias. The US should not use a “religious litmus test” to decide who to help and who to abandon. There are over 1.57 billion Muslims in the world, and the vast majority are not terrorists. There have been as many, if not even more religiously motivated terrorist attacks perpetrated by Christians throughout history as there have been Muslim terrorist attacks. It is also policy to carefully vet refugees to ensure that no ISIS members make it in. Of the 784,000 refugees who have settled in the United States since 9/11, only three have been charged with plotting terrorist attacks.
Thirty-one ignorant and racist state governors have announced they won’t admit Syrian refugees into their states. Even though the decision to admit refugees rests with the federal government, state governments can make things difficult for refugees seeking to live in those states. The anti-Semitic attitudes that kept the US from helping Jewish refugees during World War II are considered abhorrent and disgusting today, and if America had to do it all over again, I’m sure that they’d have admitted more Jewish refugees in light of the horror they faced across seas. But America does have a chance to do it all over again, and this time we can make the right descision this time and help those people who need it most. In fifty years the refusal to help Syrian refugees will be looked down on as disgraceful.
Anyone who is so blatantly xenophobic should be shunned from society, and it goes without saying, should NEVER be president. Yet, the Republican party has put forth a colorful array of these ignorant asshats as their presidential candidates, and is standing proudly behind their buffoons, grinning happily to one another and patting each others backs for a job well done. Their party has come to represent hateful ignorance, repression, and the hinderance of progress and it is time for their conservative ways to fall by the way-side. It is 2015. We don’t have room for their archaic perception of the world anymore.