What is a country to do when hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees are fleeing their country of origin because of violence brought on by religious fanaticism under the rule of theocratic dictatorships? That’s the question directed at many European leaders, and one that President Obama is pondering himself.
The young Syrian boy was only a three years old, but the image of his lifeless body washed up face down on a Turkish beach went viral over the last week, putting millions of eyes on a crisis that has been going on for years. With the rise of Islamic fundamentalism leading the way in the form of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other groups in the Middle East, countries like Germany, France, and England have opened their arms to those who have fled, pledging to invest billions of dollars to care for those in need. According to a statement from the White House on September 6, the United States is weighting it’s options on whether or not they will do the same.
“The administration is actively considering a range of approaches to be more responsive to the global refugee crisis, including with regard to refugee resettlement,” Peter Boodaard, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a statement on Monday. “We are also in regular contact with countries in the Middle East and Europe who have been greatly impacted by the increased refugee flows.” The USA Today went further, claiming the administration is “opening the door to the possibility of allowing more Syrian refugees into the United States.”
According to section 207 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, up to 70,000 refugees can be admitted to the United States during the 2015 fiscal year, justified by what it calls “humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest;.” The number of Syrian refugees who have already come to the United States has spiked dramatically, with an expected 2,000 being admitted into the country this year, up from only 132 in 2014.
This issue is, without much surprise, a divided one in Congress. Democratic presidential candidate and former governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, is calling for the United States to take in as many as 65,000 refugees from Syria. His call to action was also supported by 14 Democrats in the Senate, as well as various religious and human rights groups. Others aren’t so welcoming, as Republican Rep. Peter King has warned that “terrorist groups may seek to use Syrian refugee programs as a gateway to carry out attacks in Europe and America.” This is a similar sentiment that is being used by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opposition in opposing taking in refugees. Former Vice President Dick Cheney went as far as to blame Obama for the refugee crisis, during a recent interview on Fox News.
The price tag of taking in the amount of refugees that are talked about is high. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the country would spend $6.6 billion allowing nearly 800,000 migrants and refugees into the country by the end of the year.
Obama must act quick with his decision, as he has until October 1 to finalize the annual refugee ceiling. Whether the president decides for or against allowing refugees into the United States, he should expect to face backlash from one side of the aisle or the other. Considering the constant theme of dysfunction and partisanship during his entire time in the White House, it shouldn’t be anything out of the ordinary.