U.S. Airstrikes Must Be Turning Point in U.S. Syrian Refugee Policy

April 10, 2017

By Heather Stewart

Agree or disagree about what action the United States should take in Syria, but the U.S. missile attack on Syria last week must be a turning point in U.S. Syrian refugees policy.

It stands to reason that if the President of the United States could not turn a blind eye to an indiscriminate chemical attack that killed scores of civilians in Syria, that same President must not ignore the imperative that the United States accept and welcome Syrian civilians as refugees.

The Syrian people are clearly suffering. Families and individuals have been fleeing Syria in a desperate attempt to stay alive for years, and neighboring countries have taken on the greatest burden. In February 2016, it was estimated that Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt together took in more than4.8 million Syrian refugees, and European countries have also taken in large numbers of Syrians and other refugees. In sharp contrast, the United States has taken in just over 18,000 Syrian refugees since 2011.

The missile launch this past weekend indicates the U.S. President believes the Syrian government ordered an attack on their own people—innocent children, women, and men—and the attack was so grievous an act as to move him beyond his long-held stance against military intervention in Syria. Therefore, the next step is to recognize that the threat to Syrian civilians is ongoing.

Mr. President, you can phone in a missile launch. Now it is time for us to do the work of recognizing Syrians as refugees and welcoming them into the safety of U.S. communities.


Heather Stewart is counsel and director of immigration policy for NAFSA: Association of International Educators.


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