As the Syrian Civil War wades into its fifth bloody year, the flow of refugees fleeing the unimaginable violence grows by the day. Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has called on the United States to play a bigger role in the Syrian refugee crisis, and wants to see at least 65,000 refugees accepted in 2016.
“I support the call from humanitarian and refugee organizations for the United States to accept at least 65,500 Syrian refugees next year.”
As tragic images of the plight of refugees fill the media, O’Malley argues that America is not pulling its weight in this time of need, and that this does not reflect our cherished values and history. “Americans are a generous and compassionate people. But today our policies are falling short of those values,” said O’Malley in a statement released Friday. “If Germany – a country with one-fourth our population – can accept 800,000 refugees this year, certainly we – the nation of immigrants and refugees – can do more.”
The outpouring of refugees from the Middle East is one of the great humanitarian crises of our time. Over 4 million people have fled Syria since the country fell into civil war in 2011. The U.N. estimates that 300,000 refugees have entered Europe by sea this year, and thousands have died in the perilous journey.
As a country with a history of supporting refugees, it’s time that the United States take more of a leadership role in addressing this dire situation. According to the International Rescue Committee, only about 1,500 Syrian refugees have arrived in the U.S. By comparison, in Iceland, a country of less that 400,000 people, 10,000 residents have offered their homes to Syrian refugees. America should follow their lead and do our part to stop the deadly boat crossings into Europe.
With his statement, O’Malley aligns himself with a group of Democrats led by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who issued a statement in May calling for 65,000 refugees to be admitted.
Republicans can’t stop their fear-mongering for an instant, and they criticize such humanitarian relief efforts as creating a “federally funded jihadi pipeline” to the U.S. According to Mitch McCaul (R-TX), “I am worried that ISIS could exploit this effort in order to deploy operatives to America via a federally funded jihadi pipeline.” Where the rest of the world sees innocent children dying as they flee their home, the Republican Party sees potential terrorists.
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also expressed the need for the U.S. to play its part in this global crisis: “We should do our part, as should the Europeans, but this is a broader, global crisis,” said Clinton in an interview with MSNBC. “I think we have got to come to grips that this is not going away and the millions of people need safe places to be.”
At a time when Republicans are speaking obsessively of deportations, it is important that we turn our attention to those whose homeland has been torn apart, and that we continue to uphold American values by welcoming those in need into our country. Martin O’Malley’s statement reflects the views of an expanding coalition of Democratic voices that are calling for the United States to play a bigger part in relieving this crisis.
Editor’s Note: The Syrian Civil War began in early 2011 and has continued to this day. Over 330,000 have died and seven million have fled their homes as their nation descended into a hellish state of total war. The Alawite regime of Bashar Al-Assad battles the Free Syrian Army for power as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh) and various other Sunni extremist groups such as the al-Nusra Front carve out their own slices of territory like jackals over a rotting carcass. Opposing all of them are the Kurdish militias, who are defending their territory against the advances of ISIS independent state in response to the utter disintegration of Syrian national unity. Allegiances shift daily and it is as intractable a conflict as the world has ever seen, showing no signs of letting up any time soon. The refugees fleeing Syria are desperately fleeing this whirlwind of violence, and have little to return home to. They deserve the opportunity to start a new life in America, as our own forefathers once fled prosecution and poverty. Imagine the statement it would send to Donald Trump and the rest of the nativist bigots currently debating mass deportations and ending birthright citizenship.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.