Thomas S. New York

The Crisis in Syria

The country of Syria is currently in the middle of a civil war and there are many refugees who need serious help. Though we may have prejudices about Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent, it is important that we recognize their situation and provide meaningful assistance.

Dear Madame/Mr. President;

As the political debate about national security and terror increases in intensity, the prejudices held by many citizens in this country can be drawn to the forefront of the conversation. These prejudices can be very harmful as they have the potential to cloud our judgment on the many issues regarding the Middle East, especially the refugee crisis in the war-torn country of Syria. There is a civil war taking place between the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, and rebels looking to break away. While the situation is very serious and there are many factors to consider, there is one action the United States can take which is undisputedly the right response. That action is allowing more Syrian refugees into the United States as they escape the violence and poverty that has overtaken their country.

I would like to start with some statistics given by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The office estimates that there are 13.5 million people, including 6 million children, who are in need of assistance. 4.8 million have been forced to leave the country and 6.5 million are internally displaced. There are 5.47 million people in hard to reach areas and 600,000 in besieged areas. 11.5 million require healthcare, 13.5 million require protection, 12.1 require water and sanitation, 2.48 million are classified as food insecure, and 1.5 million need shelter and household goods. Since March 2011, over a quarter of a million Syrian have been killed and over one million have been injured. I implore you to seriously consider these statistics. There are millions of people in the country of Syria who need meaningful assistance.

I do not have a direct personal connection to this issue, yet I feel very strongly about it. These people are being subjected to terrible atrocities that no one should have to endure. For one, they are under attack from their own government, who uses chemical weapons not only on the rebels fighting the government of Assad, but also on innocent civilians. They are also living in extreme poverty. This I can relate to on a personal level; my father lived his entire childhood in poverty on a farm in western New York. He lived in a house with no heat, limited running water, and little to no money for things like food or resources needed to survive. He knows what it is like to live in poverty and it is a terrible reality to think about. While the two situations aren’t exactly the same, seeing how he lived allows me to see a small part of what these Syrians are going through. My father was given the chance to escape his situation and so should these Syrians, who have done nothing to deserve the treatment the Syrian government is giving them.

There are no easy solutions to the problem, but there are numerous things that can be done by the United States Government in order to help the situation. It can continue to support the United Nations in its efforts to support these people. We can also go back to the negotiating table with Russia in order to get another ceasefire between the opposition and Assad, though that is an entirely different issue which brings up its own set of problems. The single biggest thing the United States can do is allow more refugees inside the United States.

These people need help, and it is the right thing to do. If this moral cause isn’t evidence enough, there are plenty of other reasons and benefits to allowing them into the country. One is that it would take some of the pressure off of our allies in Europe, such as Germany. They have taken a very large amount of refugees and need someone to lighten the load. Who is a more perfect candidate for the job? We are their allies and they deserve our help. Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times goes as far as comparing the refugees to the many Jewish citizens who tried to escape Nazi Germany in the years leading up to World War II. Another reason is that it would help fix the negative image that much of the Middle East has of us. We are seen as evil by many people in that part of the world; our of helping innocent people with their unfortunate plights would do much to help how that area of the world perceives the United States as a whole. It would then be easier for our military to change the negative perception of our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. This would help us to avoid fighting needless wars in the region because we would be seen as the rescuers of people in need. America is a country with a rich history of immigration. The refugees are immigrants and would have a similar effect on our country as a whole. They would bring their traditions, ways of life, and ideas, making a positive influence on the country.

Many Americans argue that it is too dangerous to let so many people from that area of the world into our country. There are admittedly many risks involved in letting Syrian refugees into our country, but there are things that can be done to minimize the risk and allow us to follow through. We need to have a process of vetting the people who come in, if we don’t, some would argue that there would be serious repercussions. Vetting becomes complicated when the people who come have little to nothing with them and don’t speak English. However, the system we have now is adequate as it has allowed refugees to enter without any major terrorist threats so far. In fact, it is currently easier for terrorist organizations to obtain student visas for potential attackers or to send them through countries such as France or Belgium, according to Nicholas Kristof. There is no reason to say that we should stop any refugees from coming into the country just because one or two may have bad intentions. That would a disservice to the 13.5 million people suffering in Syria. It would be taking a stand against all of the values the United States promotes and stands for around the globe.

I believe that it is the duty of the United States to help the refugees escaping the war in Syria by welcoming them into our country. There are clearly numerous benefits that we could gain from doing so. Aside from these benefits, allowing the victims of this horrendous crisis to take refuge with us is simply the right thing to do. If we do not, we are forfeiting our long held position as the moral compass and example for the rest of the world.


Thomas S.