U.S. should take more initiative in Syrian refugee crisis

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

Why has it taken this long for the Obama administration to consider accepting more Syrian refugees?

The United States has only taken in 0.03 percent of the 4 million refugees forced to flee from the crisis that began almost five years ago in Syria, according to CNN. Since America has been a world leader in recognizing the moral responsibilities of refugee resettlement, these numbers seem especially hypocritical.

Just this week, Obama stated that the United States would resettle between 5,000 and 8,000 refugees. The International Rescue Committee is requesting those numbers be increased to 65,000. In response, National Security Council spokesman Peter Boogaard said, “It is important to note that the United States has provided over $4 billion in humanitarian assistance since the Syrian crisis began, and over $1 billion in assistance this year,” according to CNN. However, it’s evident that the funding hasn’t been enough.

Most of the responsibility to help is being placed on the European Union, as demonstrated by media headlines such as “A European Disaster” (Slate) and “E.U. Nations Urged to Accept 160,000 Migrants” (New York Times). Meanwhile, there hasn’t been enough pressure on the United States to act. The issue is our indifference, which may have finally reached a pressure point with the heartbreaking photos of refugees that have recently been circulating the Internet.

Following World War II, refugee resettlement in the United States was defined by two issues: who to admit, and how many to admit. Refugees were expected to help themselves from the minute they were stepped into their new home. Gradually, America began to consider a more extensive process, which has become increasingly complicated in the intervening years.

It appears that the United States is shying away from admitting more refugees because of the complexity of the resettlement process. However, leaving the crisis to the Europeans does not live up to the United States’ reputation as a world leader.

Refugee resettlement is a federal responsibility that calls for international attention. It is a process that must be flexible, due to the unique and specific needs that come with every crisis. America should consider clarifying quotas and even simplifying the resettlement policies.

The fact that it takes years for refugees to be approved for resettlement is a sad excuse for inaction. If our leaders increase the number of refugees accepted, the United States can live up to its reputation of setting moral standards for the international community.