Your neighbors have been bombed. Half of your family is dead. There is no life for you anymore in this war-torn country where any day you could end up like everybody else you know — lifelessly lying in a hastily dug grave. So you decide to escape. You know that traveling at night is the only option, so you begin. Endlessly, it seems, you walk miles through the darkness, because if you traveled during the day, the snipers would see you, and the soldiers would try to capture you and force you into military service. Finally, you cross the border. You think you’re safe. But you can’t find work. Nobody can legally hire you. Sometimes people you come across don’t even speak your language. You’re hungry and starving and cold. One night you hide in a chicken coop, as if you’re an animal. There is no running water anywhere. There is no heat. The concept of sanitization has become as foreign as the safe Western nations you can only dream of. Finally you find a host family to stay with, but they are just as poor as you are. Half the household is sick and you can tell your host wants you gone. The United Nations finally considers you for resettlement. You are interviewed. Your fingerprints are taken. Your background is checked. Then you are interviewed again.
Two years later, 700 days later, there is another level of screening, this time from the U.S. If you pass, you can take a shower again, you can eat warm food, find a job, send your children to school. You are interviewed. You are medically evaluated. And screened some more. Finally, at the end of all of this, the U.S. agrees that you are a good candidate for resettlement. However, there is nowhere for you to go. The United States, nearly four million square miles large, does not have room for you. In the country where food is constantly tossed into garbage cans, there is not food for you. In the country where nobody can look up from their iPhone long enough to see you, there is not a heated home for you to live in.
Since the Paris attacks, many governors have clamored to keep Syrian refugees out, as if these victims perpetrated the attack. None of the Paris attackers have been confirmed as refugees. Most were European and could have gotten into the United States much easier than your average Syrian refugee.
There is an extensive process to screen all refugees entering the United States even after the screening provided by the UN. If anything that is in anybody’s mind suspicious is found, a candidate is no longer considered.
Not all refugees are considered for resettlement. The first refugees to be considered are those who are particularly vulnerable. For example, victims of torture: a woman who heads her household, or those with medical conditions that are barely even considered conditions in the U.S. because they’re dealt with so easily.
There are four million Syrian refugees. The population of Connecticut is 3.6 million. Syrian refugees admitted to the United States have been screened so thoroughly that there’s no chance they pose a terrorist threat to our nation. These people seeking aid have faced hardships that most of us equate with Hell. We can no longer call ourselves a benevolent nation if we refuse to give aid to those who need it most. If we let the terrorists dictate the kind of nation we become, then they have already won. If we allow the terrorists to make us into the kind of country that doesn’t offer aid to those who have watched friends die, displaced from their homes, starved, tortured, screened and given hope, then we can’t call ourselves the home of the brave. We are the home of the defeated. Allowing Syrian refugees into our country is not a threat to our safety, it is our duty as human beings.
Alex Houdeshell, Assistant Editor in Chief of Horizons
Junior Alex Houdeshell is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of the 2015-2016 Horizons Yearbook. She is the president of Operation Smile and participates in Cupcakes for Causes. She is on the soccer team and she runs Indoor Track and Track and Field.