The argument of conflicting resources fails based on its premise of resource competition, but that claim is really a veil for the broad anti-immigrant sentiment that has been fomented over the last year and some change (again tied to the nationalism/nativism/isolationism previously touched upon). If people are concerned about helping people in the US then they can do a number of things, from volunteering, to donating to charities, to calling their local, state, and federal representatives and asking for a shift in priorities. The true issue underlying this is the overarching demonization of immigrants, and the specific claim that certain refugees (such as from Syria and Iraq) pose a significant security risk to the US. One candidate has gone so far as to say that there is no vetting of Syrian refugees at all. This is patently false.
The USCIS has a lengthy vetting program for all refugees, and the refugee admissions program has the widest latitude of all programs for denial of entry. While the Director of USCIS, Director of the FBI, and the Secretary of DHS have all given congressional testimony indicating that there are systemic limitations on vetting – specifically that databases can’t tell us anything if someone isn’t already in the database – that is not the same thing a no capability for vetting. The Intelligence Community is not limited exclusively to database checks for vetting, and the refugee officers that interview refugee applicants are trained in deception detection, as are the supervisors that review the interviews. Because of the latitude given, something as slim as a minor conflict in an applicant’s story (which he has to provide to at least two other entities before meeting with the USCIS refugee officer) can result in a denial of their application. Keep in mind that there are about 4.5 externally displaced refugees from Syria, and we are looking to allow less than 100,000 of them resettle to the US in the near term – less than 0.01% of the refugee population. We are being very selective about who we admit.
Syria Complex Emergency Map – 02-04-2016
As far as security goes, immigrant populations (including undocumented immigrants) do not commit crimes at a higher proportion than natural-born US citizens. In fact, they tend to commit fewer crimes as a percentage of the population. You are still far more likely to be injured or killed by a non-immigrant than by an immigrant, regardless of how they arrived. There is no indication that resettled refugees are committing a disproportionate number of crimes, or even a number of any significance at all.
There is quite simply no perspective that allows a rational argument against assisting refugees. They do not create budgetary conflicts for US-focused social programs, they are not a drain on the economy, they are thoroughly vetted prior to admission, and they are not responsible for any significant amount of crime. Let’s stop demonizing people who need help around the world, and instead continue to actively open our doors to those most in need.
*24 January 2017 Update, with embedded sources:
The overwhelming majority of terrorist activity is in places such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Nigeria according to the most recent Global Terrorism Index. The odds of being injured or killed by a refugee of any kind in ridiculously minuscule, and to date I am unaware of any confirmed instances of a Syrian refugee brought in due to the current crisis being involved in any manner of terrorism. I have been particularly appalled by the continued lies by Donald Trump with regard to the vetting process for Syrian refugees specifically, in fact claiming that there is no process. (The new administration is clearly planning to perpetuate this fallacy, based on the press secretary’s statement that they “would work on the vetting process” once the new Secretary of State is confirmed.) Having worked with USICS, I can assure you all that there is a thorough vetting process, and that there is wide latitude for refusing entry. Considering that there are about 4.8 million externally displaced and 6.6 million internally displaced Syrian refugees and that our plans have been to admit them in the tens of thousands, it is intuitively obvious that we are being selective.