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My View: Refugees in U.S. could be costly, risky

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The numbers of migrants fleeing turmoil and poverty around the world are rising astronomically. There are 20 million refugees flooding the world today, The New York Times reports, and one in four is Syrian. Europe is besieged and beginning to turn them back.

President Obama has decreed that we will take 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, and possibly more will come. A group of refugees, reportedly including one or more Syrians, arrived this month in Oregon, and is being resettled in Salem.

Considering the vast new scale of refugees, what is the best policy for assisting them?

As Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies says: “... the goal of refugee assistance is not to make us feel good. It is to assist as many people as possible with the resources available. And resettling a relative handful of them here to help us bask in our own righteousness means we are sacrificing the much larger number who could have been helped with the same resources.”

The United Nations organizes and operates refuges in the Middle East, in places which are near the countries in turmoil. Caring for refugees near their own countries is less expensive and also has the advantage of facilitating their return home when stability is restored. The United States contributes to maintenance of these safe areas, and could contribute more.

It’s very expensive and counterproductive to bring refugees to the U.S. Beyond questions of cost, it is also dangerous now because the screening processes for refugees are wholly inadequate, as revealed in an examination of procedures by the Center for Immigration Studies, and as reported to Congress by the director of the FBI.

Terrible disasters have happened here recently caused by Middle Eastern citizens or immigrants. In a BBC Radio 4 documentary series, “A New Life in Europe,” a Syrian man, head of a family attempting to enter Europe, speaks bitterly of Germany’s accepting some refugee claimants while he and his family are back in the Middle East after failing twice to reach their European destination and be accepted: “If they would close the door, people would try to help themselves here. ... We would change our plan, we wouldn’t have to keep trying and waiting for another boat. We would look for a better life somewhere else. They are throwing a piece of bread tied to a string, and they just keep pulling it away from you.”

Oregon and other states can determine to what extent they wish to cooperate with the president in his refugee programs. U.S. citizens should tell their legislators and the president to stop all refugee admissions at this time except for the very few whose identity and peaceful purposes can be unequivocally proven, such as certain translators working for U.S. embassies or our military forces. Instead, help the U.N. maintain safe areas for refugees near their own countries. 

Elizabeth Van Staaveren of McMinnville is a longtime member of Oregonians for Immigration Reform. Website: OregonIR.org. Email: OFIR@oregonir.org. Phone: 503-435-0141.