Syrians arrive aboard a dinghy from Turkey, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. REUTERS – As Europe grapples with a flood of refugees from the Syrian war and the pope urges Catholics to help them, the U.S. government may lack the political appetite to offer American soil as a safe haven to more than the current trickle of Syrians.
Refugee and immigrant groups had urged the United States to admit more Syrian refugees long before the crisis erupted this summer in Europe.
Some hoped global outrage over images of a drowned Syrian toddler in Turkey last week, and Pope Francis’ call on Sunday for European parishes to take in refugees – coming just two weeks before a trip to the United States – might help prod the United States into action.
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2015.Bloomberg
A White House spokesman said on Monday the Obama administration “is actively considering a range of approaches to be more responsive to the global refugee crisis, including with regard to refugee resettlement.”
Spokesman Peter Boogaard said in an emailed statement that the United States had provided over $4 billion in humanitarian assistance since the Syrian crisis began and more than $1 billion in assistance this year.” He added: “The U.S. is the single largest donor to the Syrian crisis.”
But moral arguments about the refugees’ plight may be overshadowed by the political realities in Washington.
Migrants arrive at the main railway station in Munich, Germany, September 7, 2015.Reuters
Some congressional Republicans have said allowing in Syrian refugees would constitute a pipeline for terrorists.
“The rhetoric has been really awful,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute. “The difficulty of doing it is met by this Islamophobia and conflation of Syrians and Iraqis with terrorists.
“Hopefully, the pope will be able to challenge that mindset and soften some hardened hearts, but that remains to be seen.”
The administration itself is concerned that militants from Islamic State (ISIS) or al-Qaida might slip into the country as refugees. The State Department has cited Washington’s vetting process as a crucial but complicating factor for Syrians seeking entry.
Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, Washington has accepted 1,500 Syrian refugees, most of them this year, and the State Department expects 300 more by October.
A group of migrants make their …Read More