Utilizing his final visit to the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obama plans to rally international support for the global refugee crisis. This year, 85,000 refugees from various countries have been resettled in the United States, and President Obama proposes resettlement of 110,000 more next year. Additionally, he is asking nations to double their capacity for incoming refugees, raise $3 billion more in humanitarian aid, give employment to millions of refugees, and provide schooling for a million refugee children. The United States has had a strong history for refugee resettlement, as was evidenced after the Vietnam War, when it resettled 200,000+ refugees.
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However, many are calling into question the efficacy of the United States’ efforts to bring in refugees from abroad. Primarily, critics are pointing at the substantial amount of time the United States has taken in aiding refugees from a war which we are so deeply involved in. While nations like Germany and Canada have accepted 50,000 and 35,000 Syrians this year, America accepted a little over 10,000. Syrians are not the only refugees in question, however. U.S. officials are also being criticized for their detainment of refugees fleeing gang violence in Latin America, particularly children. In August, the United States shut down an international agreement not to detain children without legal documents.
Obama’s call to action is likewise not favored by much of Congress. With a Republican majority, many legislators are against providing resources that would support such an initiative. Being so far removed geographically from the Syrian conflict, the U.S. also has the “luxury” of admitting those refugees which they carefully screen and select. This is in contrast to many European nations, where many undocumented individuals pour across borders. As the White House press secretary stated, “What we need to see is a greater commitment around the world to not just shunting this burden off to a handful of countries.”
Is President Obama’s vision for refugee reform going to be viable? How could the United States be handling the refugee crisis differently? Should we be more open to refugees coming from other regions like Latin America? What can be done to move relief efforts forward in gridlock with Congress?