If you look solely at the U.S.’s long record of taking in refugees from countries torn apart by war, it’s hard to argue that national security should be a top concern in the debate over Syrian migrants.
In the 14 years since September 11, 2001, the United States has resettled 784,000 refugees from around the world, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute, a D.C. think tank. And within that population, three people have been arrested for activities related to terrorism. None of them were close to executing an attack inside the U.S., and two of the men were caught trying to leave the country to join terrorist groups overseas.
“I think I can count on one hand the number of crimes of any significance that I've heard have been committed by refugees,” said Lavinia Limón, a veteran of refugee work since 1975 and the president of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. “It just hasn’t been an issue.”
Yet it is the issue now, as the Obama administration tries to fend off a revolt by Republican governors over its plans to resettle more than 10,000 Syrian refugees escaping the brutality of both the Islamic State and the Assad government. The coordinated attacks in Paris have fanned fears that terrorists could infiltrate the U.S. by slipping in among the refugees—as might have occurred in the case of one of the Paris attackers.
We need to be concerned about refugees, but maybe not any more than about any of the other threats to the US. There are plenty of other citizens engaged in acts that could be considered threats, and they're already here, many are not Syrian, many are white. Fostering prejudice isn't the answer.
There is no evidence that refugee populations are hotbeds of terrorism. Just to take this further -- refugees are vetted more than any other migrant to the U.S. If we're going to deny entry to anyone who MIGHT be a terrorist -- with no evidence that they are -- what we really need to reject is students, tourists and foreign workers.
In my opinion, the arrest of one Syrian refugee should be viewed as an event that was quite likely. In any large group of people there will be a small percentage who, for whatever reason, will create discord. The concern about allowing Syrian refugees into the country may be well founded, and all refugees should be thoroughly screened but it should also be understood that there will be those who break the rules.