Note: I originally wrote this as a part of an application to intern for a certain national news website that I won't disclose on here. It's a long story, but I basically wrote this thing in three hours. I didn't get the gig, but I thought this article should see the light of day nevertheless! Since submission, I've made some tweaks to make it a more casual read (hence all the parentheticals) and because I'm no longer restricted by a word count. A special thanks to those I interviewed for this super on-the-fly and super late at night - you guys are the best!
While Clueless came out in 1995, and Haitian refugees are no longer in the present-day newscycle, the fateful question that Cher so eloquently answered in her debate class still rings true more than ever in today’s context: “Should all oppressed people be allowed refuge in America?”
That very question makes global issues and international crises hit our shores harder than the Pismo Beach Disaster hit Santa Barbara. (Last Clueless reference, I promise!)
The European Migrant and Refugee crisis that the European Union is still currently dealing with, and recent terror attacks around the world can be attributed to the increase in fear of Muslim refugees that is now tangible on our soil.
What can the refugee crisis be attributed to? In the simplest terms, instability all across the Middle East and North Africa, but especially in Syria - a hotbed of violent activity due to the Syrian Civil War and advances by the Islamic State in the region. Innocent civilians who live in these areas wanted to seek refuge to escape the violence, and we saw a surge in refugees and migrants pouring into the EU seeking asylum and resettlement. In response, various countries in the EU and the United States have all pledged to take in a certain number of refugees in 2016 to help alleviate the situation.
Since the refugee crisis, many unfortunate events have occured: The Paris Attacks on November 13th killed 130 people and injured another 367, and have been connected to the Islamic State. It was thought for sometime that one of the Paris attackers was a refugee from Syria, but the passport he carried for identification was fake and all identified assailants of the attacks are EU nationals.
The recent shooting in San Bernardino, California killed 14 and injured 21. While the shooting itself is currently not traced to any foreign terror group, it was revealed on Monday by the FBI that the couple behind the shooting had been radicalized “for quite some time.”
All of these factors contribute to a growing sense of fear. We’ve heard from various officials that anyone who is admitted to the United States will face stringent screenings to avoid “importing” terrorism. This still hasn’t stopped American governors from calling to halt the resettlement process, or Donald Trump from wanting “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
Despite the concern for a threat to national security, many on college campuses are speaking out against suspicions of innocent people and promoting a dialogue of values, tolerance, and charity towards those seeking refuge on our shores.
“DAESH is a terrorist organization, and like other terrorist groups such as The Taliban or the KKK, they operate off of fear,” said Joe Marine, a sophomore from the George Washington University. “Only by accepting Middle Eastern refugees, will the United States both maintain its historical and moral integrity, but will the United States and the Middle East be able to work together to vanquish a group that threatens the lives of these refugees more than they threaten our own.”
Lynn Wang, a sophomore from the University of Southern California, echoed similar sentiments:
“The US has a moral imperative to accept refugees; indeed, the legacy for which Americans are most unique is that of taking in the world's weak, weary, and wounded. Were this not a compelling enough argument, the US's obligations under international law and the fact that refugees usually provide a boon to their host nations' economies means that to turn them away is simply misguided at best and xenophobic at worst.”
While not all college students are for opening up U.S. borders to these refugees, a recognition and respect for their dire situation is combating fear-induced anti-Muslim rhetoric.
“The United States should practice precaution when handling this situation, considering the recent terrorist attacks in our allied nations. The US should closely monitor our borders, because we can not properly background check these refugees. It is important to stress the need to protect our current citizens and our country first,” said Jake Barnette, who is also a sophomore from GW. “Recently, I read through UNICEF that 2 million Syrian children are living as refugees and I believe that the United States can aid in their well-being, and it is our job as humans to assist them in some way.”
This dialogue has only gotten stronger as more and more have sounded off on social media:
So, do you think the U.S. government can “rearrange some things” so that we may “certainly party with the [Syrians]”? (I know I promised before but THIS is the last Clueless reference - it actually is because this article is over) It’s up to you. But in the meantime, I hope I’ve been able to give some context to those who are Clueless (I broke my promise; I’m not sorry).