Is Accepting Syrians Worth the Risk?

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This reader in Maryland thinks so:

It seems to me that it’s the same old story of the “other.” My governor announced that he was asking the federal government to cease placing refugees in our state until security assurances could be made. When I expressed my disappointment with this decision, the counter argument I got (from another citizen, not the governor) was “imagine if a refugee raped your mother/sister/niece.”

As the grandchild of immigrants who came to this country fleeing WWII, my stance is “imagine that refugee WAS your mother/sister/niece.”

So I have to disagree with the passage you posted from Kevin Drum. It DOES seem xenophobic to assume that because they’re from the same region and share a religion that refugees fleeing the thing we fear might actually be the thing we fear. I also don’t see this as putting political correctness ahead of national security; I see it as putting morality and ethical behavior ahead of fear.

When I asked the reader more about his grandparents’ experience fleeing Europe, he replied:

My mother’s family was fleeing Hungary (northeastern part of the country, near the modern day borders with Ukraine and Romania.) Like some of the current Syrian refugees, my grandfather was fleeing conscription. Then, as now, it was rightly seen as a death sentence.

He chose the U.S. because we were the first country to respond to his request for asylum. His situation was so dire that he and my grandmother were forced to marry early—they were married on Friday, spent Saturday together, and on Sunday he left for the U.S. She would follow not long after, making it out through Portugal shortly before war engulfed the continent.

A reality check from Russell this morning:

In the 14 years since September 11, 2001, the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees from around the world, according to data from the Center for Migration Studies, a D.C. think tank. And within that population, three people have been arrested for activities related to terrorism. None of them were close to executing an attack inside the U.S., and two of the men were caught trying to leave the country to join terrorist groups overseas.

Read the rest to learn, among other things, “the difference between people seeking placement in the U.S. as refugees and the millions of people who have flooded into Europe seeking asylum.” Let’s check in on France’s response:

Your thoughts? Email