War With Syria: The United States Has Taken in Only 33 Syrian Refugees in 2013

The life of a refugee is, unsurprisingly, not easy. The UN reports that more than two million refugees from Syria are currently living in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and nearby Egypt.

Sweden recently announced that all Syrian refugees who apply for asylum will receive it, making it the first European nation to grant blanket asylum to all Syrian people. The United States, in contrast, has taken in only 33 Syrian refugees this year. If the U.S. is serious about intervening in Syria due to the recent chemical weapons violations, then it should also be serious about aiding those who are being displaced. We have a responsibility to open our borders to Syrian refugees seeking asylum.

Currently, refugees from Syria are eligible to stay in the United States temporarily because the Department of Homeland Security, through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has granted them Temporary Protected Status (TPS). In June, this designation was extended through March 31, 2015. When TPS ends, those who have come to the U.S. will no longer be welcome to stay. It is possible that TPS will be extended, but this cycle of extensions creates uncertainty and places an unnecessary psychological burden on the Syrian refugees who are currently protected under the program. Ultimately, the cycle of extending the TPS program just delays the inevitable: when it is no longer extended, the few refugees who have come to the U.S. will again be uprooted from their home and expected to return to Syria.

The U.S. is, admittedly, taking small steps toward permanently relocating Syrian refugees within our borders. Early last month, the U.S. pledged that it would admit 2,000 refugees permanently into the U.S. However, this is a staggeringly small figure compared to the more than two million people who have been displaced. Even Sweden, with a population of less than 10 million compared to the United States' more than 300 million, has extended permanent residency to more Syrian refugees, with 14,700 people relocating to Sweden since last year.

Most importantly, we do not yet know how long it will take for these refugees to be relocated to the U.S. The few who are offered residency will be vetted thoroughly to prevent those with terrorist ties from entering the U.S. The thorough vetting process, which will include interviewing people as well as performing security and medical checks, combined with the processing time of applications could last over a year, meaning any refugee hoping to relocate to the United States has a long wait ahead of them. 

This is all to say that there is more that we can do to aid the people of Syria. The possibility of military force is not the only option on the table. Regardless of whether or not we intervene with force, there are already millions of refugees who need assistance. We should do our part to help them by opening our borders and helping those who wish to permanently relocate to the U.S.

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Keith Grubb

A graduate of Harvard College who studied English Literature and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Keith loves thinking about the world through an intersectionally feminist lens. One of these days he will move to D.C., but until then he is spending time reconnecting with friends, family, climbable trees, and cornfields.

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