United States closes borders to refugees seeking aid


Rochita Ghosh

Wind whips away at their hair as they look over the land not yet crossed. Displaced from their homes because of war, they seek refuge in places far more stable than the lands they were born in. They have already traveled thousands of miles to reach safety; a couple more miles, and maybe they’ll find it.
The accessibility to their safety does not necessarily hinge on them arriving to Europe, but instead on if these countries will allow them inside their borders. Several European countries have allowed refugees to seek shelter inside their lands, including Germany, who are projected to take in 800,000 to one million refugees by the end of 2015, according to Al-Jazeera.
The United States’ acceptance of refugees pales in comparison to these European countries, however. Currently, the United States limits itself on accepting 70,000 refugees, but Secretary of State John Kerry announced that this quota will be raised to 85,000 in 2016, and to 100,000 in 2017, according to the Pew Research Center.
One reason for this disparity may be the difference among these countries’ location in the world. European nations are easier for refugees to reach than the United States because it is closer in proximity, since most come from the Middle East. Also, there is only land on the route from the Middle East to Europe, Carolyn Shaw, professor of political science at Wichita State University, said.
Current U.S. immigration laws also play a part in accepting refugees, as certain ones make it more difficult to enter the nation, depending on their country of origin and skills.
“The United States has a very extensive screening process for refugees, particularly for those from the Middle East, to prevent terrorists from being admitted to the country,” Shaw said. “The United States also gives preference to refugees who come with skills/education that can [help them] land back on their feet so the resettlement process is not as difficult economically.”
These factors combine together to give a general consensus of the United States not being “particularly welcoming,”  Mack Shelley, political science professor at Iowa State University said. He says this gives the impression that people see refugees and immigrants as burdens unless they happen to possess money or skill in the science or technology fields. Shaw says the United States attempts to dissipate this view by contributing to the crisis in other ways.
“The United States is trying to counter a negative image by providing significant funding for humanitarian aid and refugee camps that are in neighboring states, since this is where the most people are who have the most need,” Shaw said. “Currently, the United States is the largest international financial donor.”
While the United States may be contributing to the global issue, Shelley says this does not change the general view on the refugee crisis at home.
“The political environment right now is pretty much poisonous, with immigrants used as scapegoats by reactionary politicians, so it’s difficult to see how this environment will improve,” Shelley said. “It’s difficult to be positive about United States immigration and refugee policy until there is a major change in public attitudes and until progressive candidates take over.”
However, regardless of whether a country can accept refugees or not, this involves more than simply policy, Global Issues leader Sonya Hu says. She says this is a matter of morals and a sense of duty.
“Each person naturally has a certain duty or obligation to help someone who is in need of help, whenever they are able,” Hu said. “Likewise, one who is better off than another is commonly seen as a morally good or ethical person when they help someone who is less privileged. Just like people, states have a duty to help others when they can. There are a number of nations that are capable of assisting others, such as the United States, U.K., Australia, and so on, and because of that, there’s no need for them to allow more people to suffer by preventing their entry into these nations.”
Hu first learned about the refugee crisis last year, when she was just a member of the club she now leads. The Global Issues leader then introduced the issue by bringing a guest speaker formerly of the Peace Corps, who described her experience with refugees and what she had learned.
“She explained that it was impossible for a single person to entirely resolve the issue of conflict, but by simply changing the life of a single family, or even a single person, one could make a difference,” Hu said. “She stressed that anyone could do something.”
While most European countries believe they should contribute somehow, not all agree on what the best course of action is. The U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that instead of accepting refugees from unstable countries, the best course of action is to help these countries become more secure, as it will provide the best long-term effect, according to The Guardian.
These countries also cannot keep helping to the extent that they have. Thanks to their large influx of refugees, Germany is experiencing a rise in instability. Towns that took in a large amount of people see a disruption in the peace they once knew due to the refugees still pushing to survive however way they can. This caused a tense mood among the local Germans, who had to alter their lives to make way for these refugees, according to Spiegel International, a news website in Germany.
All of these factors combined prompted criticism toward Germany Prime Minister Angela Merkel. She remained steadfast on this issue, insisting that the borders must remain open. This led to many German officials condemning her actions to the point of speculating whether she will remain in office, according to Spiegel International.
However, on Oct. 21 Merkel announced that Germany would deport thousands of unwelcome migrants out of the country. This is an attempt to curb the amount of refugees taking shelter in the nation and was also a response to growing objections and complaints
Hu believes these events in Europe will affect the United States later, and for that reason people should care.
“Although it seems as though this issue doesn’t pertain to us in the United States today, the state of the international community does impact domestic issues,” Hu said. “Similar to the butterfly effect, something, no matter how small and how far away, can have an effect. International conflicts impact domestic policies, trade, economy, and so much more.”