Op-ed: The U.S. shouldn’t feel migrant guilt

  • By Rich Lowry
  • Wednesday, September 23, 2015 8:36pm
  • Opinion

The U.S. has joined the global bidding on Syrian refugees. At first it said it would take 10,000 Syrians. Now it says it will increase the annual U.S. overall refugee intake from 70,000 to 100,000 during the next three years to help deal with the migrant wave deluging Europe.

The Obama administration’s attitude used to be that Syria is a faraway country of which we know nothing, and it stood by while Syria descended into mayhem and madness. It turns out that Syria is not so far away that some of its nearly biblical exodus — half of the country’s population is displaced — won’t touch our shores.

You can only have pity for people who have seen their country destroyed. Yet Syrians are only part of the European migration crisis. It should be understood, at the highest level of abstraction, as people fleeing some of the poorest, worst-governed, most strife-torn places in the world for some of the richest, best-governed and peaceful ones.

If the U.S. is letting a guilty conscience prod it into taking some of that flow, it shouldn’t. The U.S. is already incredibly generous to migrants, and settling Syrians here is not the most cost-effective or sensible way for us to help.

The U.S. is already the migrant capital of the world. It is host to “about 20 percent of the world’s international migrants, even as it represents less than 5 percent of the global population,” according to the Migration Policy Institute. About a quarter of the U.S. population is foreign-born or the children of immigrants.

Our generosity has extended to Muslim migrants. Before the European crisis, the Pew Research Center projected that by 2030, the U.S. would have a larger number of Muslims than any European country besides Russia and France.

The U.S. already has been dealing with its own, smaller-scale migrant crisis. More than 100,000 migrants from Central America came here last year, and the vast majority aren’t going back. There are tens of thousands more this year. Notably, no European country is offering to welcome any as a sign of its good international citizenship.

Taking people and flying them halfway around the world to come live in an alien society is much easier said than done.

It used to be that refugees to the U.S. were sponsored by a family or a church. Now they are supported by a panoply of government programs on top of traditional welfare benefits, from food, housing, clothing and job training, to day care, transportation assistance and English classes, to guidance on what assistance they are entitled to as refugees.

If this sounds involved and expensive, it is. According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. spent $1.1 billion screening and resettling 70,000 refugees last year. In another generous first-world country, Norway, the government estimates that it costs $125,000 to support each refugee. That would support about 25 Syrian refugees if it were devoted to supporting them in Jordan.

Then there’s the question of security. The administration talks a big game about vetting the new Syrian refugees, but given that there are no records about them and we won’t be cooperating with the Syrian government, any definitive screening will be next to impossible.

Even if the vetting is perfect, the lesson of Somali refugees in the U.S. is that a poorly assimilated population of Muslim immigrants can provide a recruiting pool for radicals.

The displaced Syrian refugees should find refuge, just not necessarily here or in the West. There are any number of nearby Muslim countries that are obvious destinations. We should (at the very least) take the resources that we would devote to resettling Syrian refugees and spend them on helping the front-line states in the Middle East.

The first step to getting a handle on U.S. immigration policy is not consent to always saying “more.”

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.

More in Opinion

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s first act as governor was unconstitutional

That’s according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.

Jackson Blackwell (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Carbon dividends are the bipartisan climate solution

By levying a gradually increasing price on carbon, U.S. emissions will be slashed by 50% in 15 years.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Dunleavy: Facts Matter

Political opportunists care more about spreading political untruths than accepting the facts.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)
Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

teaser
Opinion: LGBTQ+ Alaskans deserve respect and dignity

Like every state that lacks equality, we need federal protection.