Yesterday, we discussed Donald Trump’s apparently sincere plan to send Syrian refugees back home if he’s elected. His justification for this is essentially that some of the refugees could be ISIS fighters trying to sneak in. In his formulation, he tried to recall the Trojan Horse of Greek times, saying ISIS could be sending a 200,000 man army. Of course, Trump is being absurd here and really just playing to the fear of his audience. Most experts don’t think ISIS even has 200,000 fighters altogether, and even if they do, it’s not clear why or how they’d all abandon Syria at once for a Hail Mary shot at attacking the US.
But Trump’s hysterics are notable because he’s certainly not the only one with these views. The fear that taking in refugees will increase the risk of terrorism in the US is real, and it’s probably strong enough to prevent President Obama from accepting enough to matter. As reported in a recent piece in New York Magazine, the US has accepted just 1,500 Syrian refugees since 2011. The US was planning to take in just 10,000 more next year, though under duress, the US has now increased next year’s quota to 85,000. The problem is that this is still nowhere near adequate to address the need. And remember it’s not just Syria that’s under stress right now. It’s also Libya, Iraq, and presumably Yemen in the near future if not already.
In light of this, it’s relevant to discuss other political solutions that are both feasible and meaningful. Taking in significantly more Syrian and other refugees is not going to happen in our political climate. We can lament that reality, but we have to acknowledge it. So what are the alternatives?
Writing at Reason, Steve Chapman makes a compelling case that the best solution might be giving more foreign aid to the places that are already accommodating refugees, like Lebanon and Jordan (both of which are adjacent to Syria). He suggests that this is cheaper for the US, and provides more immediate and certain relief to the refugees. Ultimately, his conclusion just seems to make sense, whatever your political disposition is. I think he sums it up best when he writes:
We spend a lot of money killing foreigners who are enemies. It might be cheaper to help those who are not.
Check out the full piece here: