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“Huddled Masses Yearning to Break Free”

Humanity has hit a new low when violence, hate crimes and terror attacks are no longer rare headlines, but regular occurrences. However, it is how the rest of the world chooses to react to these incidents that define us as humane, or not. The ongoing refugee crisis is one such incident that I believe is of great importance. This example is not something I have faced directly, but still feel strongly about.

Refugees, by definition, are people who have been forced to leave their countries in order to escape war or persecution, among other threats to life. By accepting refugees, nations are providing at least a temporary safe shelter for people who have nowhere else to go. It must be understood that they are trying to escape war-torn nations after facing extremism and violence, with no intention of perpetrating it themselves. Conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, and so many other places has driven citizens to the point of fleeing their homes on perilous journeys they might not even survive, all in the hope of a safer, better life somewhere else. It takes a serious lack of compassion and morality for a nation to deny these people the asylum they seek.

Yes, there is always the risk of malignant individuals posing as refugees to enter a nation and cause more trouble, but is it worth jeopardizing the lives of thousands of people seeking asylum from those very malignant individuals over this? Aside from this, there is always xenophobia and racism that influences judgments, if not the fear of drain on resources, or an undesirable impact on the economy. Refugees bring with them new cultures and lifestyles, which some fear may change civic identity.

The decision of Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande to take in more refugees is even more significant, after the recent attacks including, but not limited to the incidents in Paris. An example has been set for other developed countries that can, and definitely should, be able to integrate refugees into their economies relatively painlessly, despite the potential cost.

Although this crisis is mostly faced by Europe due to its geographical location, it is one that all nations need to confront. The United Nations has appealed to the United States to uphold its tradition as a beacon to immigrants and admit Syrian refugees. The hesitation of many Governors to do so, as seen on the 19th of November, is not unfounded, given the events in Paris. However, calling for a pause in the vetting process to ensure that terrorists are not admitted would only exacerbate the problem by causing a massive delay, and setting an unfavorable example for US allies to follow.

As Susan Grant said, “We can either let our actions be guided by misunderstandings, fear and self-interest, or we can lead by knowledge, science and compassion. We can fear, or we can care.”

It is time we opened our hearts and borders to those who need all the support they can, in this dark time for humanity.

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