2 November 2016
Dear President of the United States,
Over 60 years ago, my great grandmother traveled to the U.S. from her homeland of Switzerland. She was alone and terrified, but she was also hopeful. To her, America represented freedom, possibility and independence. She was following in the footsteps of millions who left behind family, friends, and livelihoods for a new life across the sea. I am sure that many of your ancestors did the same; America has long been a “melting pot” of cultures. Yet, somehow, most of the country has forgotten its history of hospitality, at least when it comes to Syrian refugees. As of June 2015, there were 9 to 10 million refugees displaced from their homes because of civil war, yet this year only 10,000 were allowed into the U.S. (“By the Numbers”, 2). This is unacceptable, and a clear indicator that racism and xenophobia still play a part in our society and politics.
It is time for the xenophobia running rampant through the country to no longer be excused as a fear of terrorism. For the last several years, rumors have circulated that if any Muslim refugees are allowed into our country, they will bring terrorism with them. Although it is true that a few extremists of the Islamic religion use fear to spread their message, their actions do not define an entire culture. Most of the Muslims in Syria are people just like those in America, people in need of safety and basic human decency. Screening processes are already in place to ensure that dangerous radicals are kept out of the country. Now is the time to trust those systems.
The country must look back at the past, and remember when mistrust of those from other countries has created rather than solved problems. Perhaps the most prevalent example is during World War II, when Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps. Like those from Syria, they had done no wrong, but were still held responsible for actions taken by those of their same ethnicity. They did not hold the same beliefs, yet bore the consequences. This is not a bright spot on U.S. history; it is something that even today, the country still carries the shame of. There is no need to make the same type of mistake. Isn’t the reason why history is taught in school so that we can learn from it?
At this point, your presidency is a blank slate. I am sure you feel the weight of this, that you already realize you now play a part in writing history. I implore you to use this power to forever memorialize the U.S. as a charitable, compassionate country. In the words of Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility”. We as a nation, and you as our leader, need to step up. There are millions of refugees in Syria at this very moment who are lost, bleeding, and scared. Mothers are raped, fathers killed, children wounded, and families ripped apart. There is no excuse for standing idly by while such atrocities happen. Steps must be taken.
I wholeheartedly believe change is not dependent on you alone; it is dependent on the nation as a whole. However, there are things that you can start, steps you can urge Congress to take. For example, I live in Montana, the 3rd biggest state in the U.S. Less than 2 million people live within our borders. There is plenty of room for thousands, if not a hundred thousand, refugees. As of now, Montana has none. Someone, somewhere, needs to put some pressure on Montana and states like it to find their compassion, especially since individual states refusing refugees is illegal. That someone can be you. In addition, as I mentioned before, only 10,000 refugees have been accepted into our country in 2016. That number needs to be raised exponentially. If the country does not seem to have the funds to do this, find them. Saving the lives of human beings is more important than cutting a few budgets.
Our country put its faith in you when you were elected. For the next four years, you have the power to make changes that will have a lasting impact on future generations in the United States. You can leave a legacy of charity and kindness that will influence all who come after you. I know you spent countless hours and dollars on your campaign, and I know you would not have done that unless you had plans to make the U.S. a better place. Allowing more refugees into our country is not just a step, but a leap, in that direction.
“By the Numbers: Refugee Crisis.” Issues & Controversies. Infobase Learning, 2 Feb. 2016.Web. 18 Oct. 2016. <http://icof.infobaselearning.com/recordurl.aspx?ID=15053>.