A question on the refugee crisis facing Europe is likely to come up at the Republican debate tonight and I have a slim hope that some of the candidates will come up with a coherent answer. Here’s a possible response:
Jake, as the father of (insert number), I found the picture of that dead Syrian child especially heartbreaking. For both humanitarian and foreign policy reasons, we should work with other countries to help Syria's neighbors manage the large numbers of people seeking safety. The goal should be to enable those fleeing war to be able to live in dignity as near as possible to their homes so they can return when the fighting ends.
But resettlement outside the region must be the extreme last resort, and is the wrong solution for the vast majority. President Obama’s plans to resettle tens or possibly hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the United States are unfair, inefficient, and unsafe.
Unfair, because refugees who end up in the West have basically won a lottery. What we’re seeing in Europe now is that those people who run a gauntlet and survive win the prize of life in Germany or France, based mainly on how much money they have to pay smugglers or their luck at sea. Survival of the fittest, or the luckiest, is not a good model for caring for refugees.
Inefficient, because a dollar spent bringing a refugee here and supporting him would help many more people in Turkey or Jordan or Lebanon. A recent study found that the money spent on a single refugee in Europe could help 25 people in the Middle East. American taxpayers' money isn't unlimited; if we're going to spend it on refugees, it should be directed where we'll get the most bang for the buck.
And unsafe, because there is literally no way to check the backgrounds of Syrians claiming to be refugees. The Boston Marathon bombers were refugees and were screened multiple times – the FBI even interviewed their friends – and we still didn't know they were terrorists. Who are we going to ask about a Syrian refugee, the Damascus police department? It is impossible to resettle refugees from Syria's civil war without letting large numbers of ISIS, al Qaeda, and other terrorists move to the United States. What are we going to say to the parents of a dead American child killed by an ISIS "refugee" on our own soil?
A (insert name) administration would be energetic and generous in caring for refugees – by helping them where they’re located now, not by moving them to the United States.