By Adelma Jakupovic
Ryan Crocker, former U.S Ambassador to Syria, Iraq, and several other Middle Eastern countries, recently participated in a special broadcast of KERA FM’s Think program exploring the global refugee crisis and how the United States is responding. Texas State Senator Don Huffines of Dallas and Jennifer Sime, senior Vice President of United States Programs for the International Rescue Committee, joined him.
During the discussion, Crocker called for an increase in Syrian refugee resettlement and aid. He noted that the United States is a nation of immigrants and refugees and has a longstanding tradition of offering refuge to people fleeing persecution. Crocker acknowledged that although Americans typically resist each successive wave of immigrants, they ultimately enrich us as a nation.
While taking in Syrian refugees is not a risk-free endeavor, it is highly unlikely terrorists will choose to infiltrate the United States using the refugee route. Crocker noted that the process is time consuming—18 to 24 months on average—and involves extensive screening. IRC’s Sime echoed this point, explaining that refugees are the most thoroughly screened group to enter the United States. A myriad of government agencies are involved and use biographical and biometric information to conduct background checks on applicants and to confirm their identities.
Shutting out refugees and creating a hostile environment for Muslims will not prevent future terrorist attacks in the United States. In fact, such a strategy makes the United States and its allies more vulnerable. Crocker pointed out that ISIS monitors the U.S debate about refugees very closely, using social media to propagate the narrative that the West hates Arabs and Muslims. When people promote excluding a whole group of refugees based on their nationality or religion, it plays into extremists’ hands. It also sends the message to U.S. citizens of similar backgrounds that they are second-class citizens.
The United States needs to do more to effectively address the refugee crisis—one of the worst since the Second World War. Crocker wants the United States to use its standing in the world to spearhead a global solution to a global problem. America has the capacity, resources, and community support to provide assistance to refugees. Now, it is just a matter of leadership.