In the midst of an intense civil war, millions of Syrians have fled their country. Whether it is the oppression of the current president (Bashar Al-assad) or ISIL, around four-million have fled the country, seeking refugee status throughout the world.
President Barack Obama announced his plan to allow 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country, which was met with support from most of his fellow democrats, and also fellow-republicans such as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
However, after the deadly attacks in Paris, France, where one of the terrorists had been traced to the refugee programs, on November 13 a considerable debate has emerged on whether or not refugees brought a security risk. Opponents claimed that a terror attack could be committed under the cover of the refugee crisis. Some suggested halting the program altogether, others said that only Christian refugees should be allowed into the country. Supporters of the program countered that the US couldn’t turn their back on the helpless, and said that this was the fear that ISIL had attempted to bring with the attacks in Paris.
Soon after the attacks, over half of the governors of the United States refused entry for Syrian refugees, including some democrats. While seen as a blow to public opinion, it has been noted that governors do not have the ability to refuse refugees; assignment of refugees is made by the federal government, with or without the states’ permission.
Within a week, the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Paul Ryan, passed the American SAFE act, which brings a more robust screening process for refugees, with a veto-proof majority. This was despite President Obama’s threats to veto the bill. 47 democrats voted with republicans in passing the bill. It now heads to the Senate, where Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has threatened to block the legislation.
Public opinion on the issue is politically polarized: 65 percent of democrats support allowing more refugees, while 81 percent of republicans are opposed. 59 percent of independents are opposed to the program, while 40 percent are in support. It remains to be seen how the public opinion affects the presidential race, and also how it effects policy making for lawmakers in Washington DC.