By Walt Leung
For four years, the United States of America has remained indifferent to the refugee crisis happening in Syria. Yet on Sept. 2, the viral image of dead three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying face down in the sand on the shoreline of a Turkish beach forced the US to come face to face with what has been dubbed the greatest humanitarian crisis in the decade.
However, US response to this exodus has been painfully slow. Although it has provided nearly $3 billion in humanitarian aid since the start of the civil war in 2011, the US has only accepted around 1500 refugees applying for resettlement—paling in comparison with the European Union, which has already taken in hundreds of thousands.
Part of this lapse may be attributed to America’s complex refugee policy. Those applying for relocation in the US must go through complex screening processes through multiple agencies such as Homeland Security and the State Department. These screening processes deter potential extremists, but are time consuming, taking anywhere from six months to two years.
Furthermore, post-9/11 fears have set the annual refugee capacity to 70,000. Consequently, refugees have become discouraged from applying to the US for resettlement; instead, many prefer to seek asylum in freer countries such as Germany.
Yet, in mid-August, Washington made a controversial decision by vowing to increase the Syrian refugee count to 2,000. In mid-September, this number was increased to 10,000. On Sept. 20, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US “will increase the number of refugees the US is willing to accept in 2017 to 100,000.”
These promises have sparked massive outrage within the political realm. GOP frontrunners Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina have condemned these decisions, saying that increasing the number of refugees could bring in “a possible army of ISIS terrorists,” as Trump stated.
Many Americans also appear to share this fear, as shown by a Rasmussen Report in which 72% of voters believed that there would be a security risk in accepting more refugees.