After months of vilifying, demonizing and dehumanizing refugees, mainstream media has pivoted 180 degrees on its stance. After images of drowned children washed ashore on European beaches have gone viral, the media now seems to be opposed to the injustice plaguing refugees. “For the children!” is the battle cry that rings throughout the media, which has re-imaged migrants as invaders of Western civilization to people deserving of sympathy. Our society is abhorrent in that it took a viral picture of a drowned child washed up on the coast of Bordum, Turkey for the world to recognize the shared humanity of refugees fleeing war and oppression in countries like the Middle East and Africa, such as in Syria and Libya, for a better standard of living.
The mainstream media has been on a smear campaign since the beginning of this spring and summer’s migrant crisis, capitalizing on the European people’s fears and hatred of migrants using headlines like the Daily Mail’s “Forget the Greek crisis or Britain’s referendum, this tidal wave of migrants could be the biggest threat to Europe since the war”, and the Sun’s infamous columns calling migrants “cockroaches” and stating that they would “use gunships to stop migrants.”
The crisis has gotten so out of hand that people are turning away from the European Union (E.U.) and turning to the United States to offer humanitarian aid and accept migrants into their borders. At this point, does the United States even have a moral obligation to take in any refugees? We, like the E.U. countries with the resources to take in many more migrants, have completely ignored the issue until it exacerbated greatly recently. Do we have an obligation as one of the biggest economies of the world and a leading member state of the United Nations to take in refugees? Or, will taking in refugees do nothing to assuage the crisis if we don’t tackle the root cause of the issue?
The United States, a country of $53,041.98 as its GDP per capita, is considering taking in just 10,000 refugees over the next year after months of the E.U. migrant crisis. This number was announced by the Obama administration on Sept. 10. The day before, on Sept. 9, Obama had pledged to aid the E.U. with its refugee crisis, saying, “This is going to require cooperation with all the European countries and the United States and the international community in order to ensure that people are safe [and] that they are treated with shared humanity.” By 2017, the United States will increase the number of refugees allowed into the States from 70,000 to 100,000. However, this too is an adequate. Secretary of State John Kerry has asserted he is looking into ways to expand this number.
Many of the refugees are coming from war-torn Syria. Syria has been having a civil war for the past four years. Four million people have fled the country since the civil war began in 2011. Bashar al-Assad, the dictator of Syria’s regime, has been ruthlessly targeting civilians with chemical weapons, while the Islamic State (I.S.) (and their reign of terror) has committed several atrocities against Syrians, such as murder, torture and crucifixion. Refugees from Eritrea in East Africa are also fleeing a dictatorship, as well as the Muslim minority in Myanmar evading ethnic cleansing. These are human beings fleeing unimaginable brutality in the hope of survival. Unfortunately, these refugees cannot wait until 2017.
How, then, can America, the land of the free, only accept 10,000 refugees? If we consider ourselves the pioneers of the developed Western democracies, then we should start acting that way. We can provide safe havens for more than 10,000 migrants this year. We have the resources and capacity to take in much more. We are the “Home of the Brave,” and if those refugees are courageous enough to risk their lives on a precarious boat on a quest for humane living conditions, they deserve to be welcomed into the United States with open arms.
There have been arguments that the E.U.’s migrant crisis is too geographically distant from the United States to expect us to get involved. Yet, this country has created a pattern and a history of getting involved in other countries’ affairs. Why is it that, as the leader of the free world, we have a precedent of violently interfering with the business of countries that are geographically isolated from us, rather than extending a hand of peace and friendship to asylum seekers from countries in need? We should provide asylum and transportation to refugees. If not, the United States has an obligation to provide aid to countries assisting in the matter, as a country that prides itself in aiding other countries and a major player in the international relations.
The United States was originally founded as a nation of immigrants, of people desperate to cross uncharted waters to find liberty and evade oppressive governments. Much of the United States’ history includes an influx of even more immigrants from countries such as Ireland and Italy who were seeking a good life of honest labor as well as fleeing persecution and famine. Ellis Island, New York, is notable for being a symbol of freedom for immigrants entering the Land of the Free via ships. What makes these migrants any different that we should turn our backs on our brothers and sisters in their time of dire need?
On the other hand, it can certainly be argued that we should not be fixing a “European problem” when we have immigration problems of our own regarding migrants from Latin America flooding our borders. The difference is that the United States is actually known for interference in global affairs and has a habit of getting involved in issues far away from our borders. For example, we are currently committed to combating I.S., which is a distant crisis in the Middle East. If we are committed to fighting I.S. and other threats to democracy, we should as well be committed to offer humanitarian aid to by taking in the civilians who are deeply affected by I.S. and other unrest in the Middle East.
Moreover, the European economy is not as strong as the United States’ economy. The United States has an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent as of 2014 compared to the E.U.’s unemployment rate of 11.5 percent. The United States’ GDP growth is at 2.2 percent while the E.U.’s is at 0.8 percent. Inflation in the United States is at a comfortable two percent, comparative to the E.U.’s 0.4 percent, which is dangerously close to deflation. The United States definitely has much more financial capacity to withhold the refugee crisis than the E.U.
I call up on the Great United States of America to do the “right thing” and accept more migrants onto our shores, because we have enough economic and land capacity for that many human lives. They, too, deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They, too, are human beings just like us. They, too, are worthy of acceptance.
Photo courtesy of European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protections program Flickr page