By: Hannah Hawkins
There has been a lot of controversy lately over the current Syrian refugee crisis. The big question is, should these refugees be allowed sanctuary in the United States? It’s always a different answer with every different person you ask. However, this isn’t the first refugee crisis that the U.S. has been involved in. The information in this article was gathered from Refugee Council USA’s website.
Let’s start off with the basics. Who is a refugee? “A refugee is someone who fled his or her own country because of persecution, or a well-rounded fear of persecution, based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Too many of these refugees are forced to flee their country not only because of persecution, but often times violence. This is the case with the Syrian refugees that we now see in the news.
Why should the United States care about these refugees? The U.S. has actually had quite a history with foreign refugees. After World War II, the United States of America lead in the assistance and reconstruction efforts of displaced people. Some Europeans couldn’t go back home because their country and towns were in shambles, so they were resettled in the U.S. The first refugee legislation act that was put into play by the United States Congress in 1948 called the Displaced Persons Act. This act was enacted after some 250,000 Europeans were admitted into the United States. After the Displaced Persons Act, 400,000 more Europeans were welcomed into the States.
WWII wasn’t the only time the U.S. opened its borders to those seeking help. This continued throughout the Cold War era. The U.S. relocated refugees from Cuba, Southeast Asia, and people fleeing from the former Soviet Union. When 1975 rolled around, the United States had assisted in helping the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asian refugees, prompting congress to pass the Refugee Act of 1980. This integrated the United Nations’ definition of “refugee” and regulated the resettlement services for all refugees admitted to the United States Refugee Act and provides the basis for the United States Refugee Admission Program of today.
The U.S. has helped in the resettlement of Iraqi, Afghan, and Syrian refugees forced out of their countries by war, and other populations that need lifesaving protection throughout recent years. Every year, the President of the United States, after talking with Congress and federal agencies, decides the designated nationalities and processing of priorities for the resettlement of refugees for the upcoming year. She/He also decides and sets ceilings on the total number of refugees who can enter the United States from every region of the world.
“Since 1975, the U.S. has resettled over 3 million refugees, with annual admissions figures ranging from a high of 207,000 in 1980, to a low of 27,110 in 2002.” The welcoming of refugees is nothing new to the United States. America has helped welcome millions and millions of people who are looking for a safe haven from their terror stricken homes. So what should the United States do with the current refugee crisis? It looks like it is in the hands of the new president.
Hannah Hawkins, from Illiopolis, Illinois is a Junior here at Illinois College and is majoring in Communication and Rhetorical Studies and minoring in Theatre. She is a Contributing Writer and the Web Designer for the Illinois College Newspaper, The Rambler. Hannah is a very active member in the theatre department and loves her dog more than most people.