As anti-refugee hysteria intensifies, the intolerability of life in Syria, a country racked with civil war and political unrest, has yet to make a recent headline. Instead, however, Syrian refugees fleeing persecution, torture and death have been criminalized by the media and riddled with poor, makeshift living conditions. Despite the mass call to subjugate an already displaced population, an Undergraduate Student Government resolution introduced last Tuesday seeks to renew the U.S. commitment to human rights by providing refuge and a top-tier education to Syrian students. If passed, USC will be joining the Syria Consortium of the Institution for International Education along with universities such as Brown University and Colorado State University. And during one of the greatest humanitarian crises in the 21st century, the University has a unique opportunity to be on the right side of history by unanimously passing the proposed resolution.
Graduate student Christopher Lo-Records introduced the resolution, stating that many universities have an open door policy for Syrian scholars. In his presentation, he also noted that the practice of taking in refugees has been done before for refugees from Nicaragua, Iraq, Cuba and Vietnam.
It is even more important to provide refuge for Syrian students given the widespread, and largely unfounded, backlash against refugees. Most of this stems from fear as a result of recent Paris attacks — which many politicians quickly capitalized on as an opportunity to fuel anti-immigrant sentiments. Therefore, it is important to note that, when compared to Europe, the U.S. vetting process for refugees is far more scrupulous, and subsequently more selective, according to the State Department. According to Lo-Records, the vetting process is particularly extensive and has taken in 750,000 refugees since 9/11 without any threats to national security.
Though many assume that asylum is simply an incubator for ISIS recruitment, of the eight identified perpetrators of the recent Paris attacks, none are Syrian refugees; in fact, all of the suspects are European nationals who have resided in either France or Belgium for years. French officials have stated that, while one Syrian passport was found, it did not belong to a refugee, but rather a loyalist soldier who died a few months ago in the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Using 9/11 as an analog, the use of fake passports is a commonplace practice for terrorists. Nevertheless, the association between refugees and ISIS still creates anti-refugee sentiment. This type of ignorance stems from a genuine misunderstanding of ISIS, a transnational actor better identified as a global network than an Islamic State. Evidently, it is clear that refugees are nothing more than victims and survivors of terrorism, as they themselves have been witnesses to some of the most heinous ISIS attacks. By leaving Syria, these refugees show a genuine rejection of fundamentalism and terrorism altogether. In reality, terrorist networks like ISIS are what these refugees are fleeing from, not who these refugees are.
Providing Syrian refugees with an education and a stable living space can do much to rectify the University’s image with respect to diversity issues. And considering the recent call for diversity on campus, passing this resolution could create a unique opportunity for the University to embrace and foster an evolving definition of diversity on this campus.
Daily Trojan Fall 2015 Editorial Board