For the first time in a long time, Democrats and Republicans finally agree on something: America is not ready to accept nearly 100,000 refugees. On Nov. 20, the House passed a bill to suspend the refugee program until the CIA and FBI can guarantee that those seeking shelter, safety and security in America pose no threats. The extensive and detailed bill calls for more thorough FBI background checks and individual sign-offs from at least three high ranking U.S. officials before anyone could enter the country under refugee status. While the bill seems to tell the thousands of Syrians who are fleeing the only way of life they know that the U.S. will protect them at some point in the distant future, the situation might be more complicated than that.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan began his new position with a bang, claiming, “It just is common sense that we pause, re-evaluate and make sure that we have the proper standards in place to make sure something like what happened in Paris doesn’t happen here.” Politics aside, the man has a point. The Paris attacks shook the entire world into a defensive, hard corner that forced us to consider what a massive influx of Syrians could mean for our country.
The leaders of the refugee program sought to reassure the paranoid bill-makers by telling them that 98 percent of the refugees in the program are women and children. That seems comforting because it’s such a big portion. The remaining 2,000 people are combat-age men. Think about it this way: It only took seven young men to carry out the Paris attacks that claimed 130 lives. A vast majority of the House is concerned, and maybe even convinced, that a few of these 2,000 could be members of ISIS trying to sneak in wearing a refugee disguise.
The program is happening regardless of how the House feels about it, but should the NSA listen to them or brush them off? Some think that we should let the refugees in and then register all of the Muslims and monitor their activity. Others think that once they are in, they are Americans and we should treat them as such. Both of those options don’t work, though. If we build a police force to spy on Muslims, we may as well name that force the Gestapo, but if we simply open the gates to the country and roll out the welcome mat, we are being naïve.
Keep in mind that all of this concern and bill making happened in the wake of one of Europe’s biggest terrorist attacks in decades. Obama cautioned the American People to relax because, “We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic …We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.” Maybe he isn’t responding to the bombings and gunfire with fear and panic because no presidents died during the attacks. Civilians refuse to take a deep breath and sleep on it because they are the targets of these attacks. It’s their faces that are painted on building walls, their names that are read off at memorials and their memories that fade away in the midst of another attack somewhere else.
The problem with ISIS, aside from its very existence itself, is its way of warfare. They play dirty, which organized militaries don’t like because they don’t understand it. Even the western coalition that stands in direct opposition to ISIS doesn’t know what to do with the terrorists. They are uncontained savages who have expanded into the Western hemisphere. Until ISIS is annihilated, the American people will remain weary about letting Syrians into the country.
More racism is not what this country needs, but ISIS’s actions seem to convince people that Muslims are dangerous people who cannot be trusted. However, former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, made a great point on CNN last week that we all need to consider. He said, “The majority of people within Islam do not support either the violence or the ideology [of ISIS]. What we are talking about, however, is a radical Islamist way of thinking that results in extremism by small numbers of people, but that thinking is shared by larger numbers of people, and you’ve got to attack both — the violence and the extremism, the thinking behind it.” He’s right. If we can tell the difference between a Christian and a domestic terrorist like Robert Dear, we should be able to tell the difference between an ISIS member and a Muslim.
Jessica Cherner is a College senior from Bethesda, Maryland.