By Joe Jenkins
2016 has been a particularly trying time for Syrians. The city of Aleppo has fallen to the Assad regime after a particularly brutal four-year battle, taking with it an untold number of innocent lives, including children. There are now over 4.8 million Syrians designated as refugees by the United Nations.
To add insult to injury, the small number of Syrians provided refuge in America have received a less than warm welcome from the President-elect. In fact, they have been absolutely maligned.
On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump drummed up populist fear of Syrian refugees entering the country, calling them a “trojan horse.” He stated that if elected, he would promptly send them back home.
Even though many are fleeing from terror, President-elect Trump labeled Syrian refugees as “ISIS aligned.” He has gone so far as to say he doubted that Syrians could even support American values. Most baffling, given the level of documentation and information provided by Syrian refugees to U.S. officials, was his statement that “we don’t know who [Syrian refugees] are … and we don’t know what they’re planning.”
For a clue as to what Syrians refugees are actually like, we need look no further than the many Syrian Americans and Syrian immigrants already living here. None have lived up to the nightmarish depictions of the President-elect. On the contrary, recent data shows that Syrians do well in America. Very well, as a matter of fact.
In a December 2015 report from the Center for American Progress, in partnership with the Fiscal Policy Institute, new data reveals that Syrians actually outperform other demographic groups in a number of areas. The report shows that median income of a Syrian in America is $7,000 dollars more per annum than the American-born worker—perhaps due to the fact 37 percent of Syrian men hold advanced degrees, far above the U.S. average of 13 percent. Syrians are also a staggering three times more likely to become entrepreneurs than native-born Americans, contributing to a net positive effect on the economy and creating jobs.
The report also notes the particularly high levels of integration that Syrians exhibit in their communities. After ten years, 57 percent of Syrians learn to speak English at least “very well” and become homeowners at a rate equivalent to U.S. citizens. After twenty years, over 90 percent of Syrians become citizens.
By all measures, Syrians do well when they come to America. They do even better when they have the opportunity to integrate into our communities and the economy. Read the Center for American Progress’ full report here.
This data should speak volumes to President-elect Trump. We know exactly what kind of Americans that Syrians can become if given the chance. What’s more, the thriving Syrian communities currently in America are well-equipped to assist in resettling their fellow Syrians now seeking refuge. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the Syrian refugees of today are any less determined and worthy of reaching the American dream as those already here.
Syrian refugees are not our enemy. Rather, they are often the victims of our enemies. Our national security experts carefully screen each and every Syrian refugee before they even set foot on American soil (in fact, they are the most vetted of any entrant to the United States by far).
The facts are in. When Syrians are given the opportunity, they renew America, just as so many newcomers to this nation have in the past. Now it’s up to the President-elect to determine whether facts or fear will reign in America.