Americans torn between safety and compassion on Syrian refugee debate

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) – The debate continues on whether new Syrian refugees should be accepted into the United States. Americans are torn between wanting safety and acting with compassion.

Dozens of governors across the nation are closing their borders to Syrian refugees. Both governors in Iowa and Illinois agree with that sentiment citing security concerns.

Augustana College professor Dr. Chris Strunk said the United States is acting out of fear rather than compassion.

“From a historical perspective on refugee and immigrant settlement in the United States I think we’re acting out of fear in this case,” he said.

Dr. Strunk studies international migration. He said there’s been a lot of misunderstanding that has led to the push back against accepting Syrian refugees into the U.S.

“There are some clear parallels we can draw to the fears of the 1920’s and 1930’s when a large percentage of the American population was against accepting Jewish refugees from Europe,” he said.

He also relates what’s happening now to when Japanese Americans were put in internment camps during World War II.

“We’re acting out of fear instead of compassion,” said Dr. Strunk.

He said fear of Islam and racism have also contributed to the backlash.

“There’s been a real rush to blame refugees who are the same people who are running from ISIS,” he said.

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley said halting Syrian refugees from coming in to the U.S. is a matter of national security.

“I called for a halt until we get certification from the Intelligence agencies and the FBI that we do have a vetting process to make sure no terrorists come in with other refugees,” said Sen. Grassley.

He said their number one responsibility is to protect Americans.

“ISIS has said that they’re going to try to sneak terrorist into the United States to kill Americans the same way they have in Europe now,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we keep Americans safe as much as we can.”

Dr. Strunk said about 4 million or 25% of the Syrian population has been displaced. He said most Syrian refugees are in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Both Dr. Strunk and Sen. Grassley said the U.S. has played a role in creating conditions in the Middle East that have contributed to the refugee crisis we’re seeing now.

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