The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday January 19th

Column: Has the United States lost its heart?

Assistant Opinion Editor Ramishah Maruf
Buy Photos Assistant Opinion Editor Ramishah Maruf

On Monday, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the Trump administration will accept at most 30,000 refugees. Compared to the 110,000 ceiling set by President Barack Obama the year Donald Trump took office, it’s the lowest level since the program was enacted in 1980.

As Pompeo left the announcement podium, an audience member shouted, “Has the U.S. lost its heart?”

Yes, we have. And when we willfully ignore facts and the rational truth that refugees contribute to American society, we’ve lost our brains as well. 

Time and time again, Trump and his supporters have spouted the same, tired rhetoric about "Defending American values." Those in support of the refugee cap would do well to remember the values of this country set forth by our most celebrated leaders. Our country is meant to be a beacon of light in a dark world, to be defenders of the oppressed and to stand up for those who have been wronged.

“I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong,” George Washington said.

How then, can we shut our doors on the world’s most vulnerable people, who are living through the most severe refugee crisis since World War II?

It’s incorrect to assume that a nation of 300 million cannot "afford" to accept more than 30,000 refugees. Although refugees receive direct benefits from the U.S. government, they also contribute back to the economy by working and paying taxes. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that over time, refugees will contribute to the economy more than they will receive. 

“We must continue to responsibly vet applicants to prevent the entry of those who might do harm to our country,” Pompeo said.

Of course, and we do. The painstaking process for refugee status can take years, with intense screening over biographic and health factors through a multitude of U.S. agencies. In countries who are experiencing wars and bombings — especially places like Syria and Yemen, where many bombings can be attributed to the United States — those years can mean life or death.

Logically and morally, there is no real harm to accepting refugees. Which explains why Pompeo spread misleading information at the press conference, saying that there is a backlog of 800,000 refugees and asylum seekers. 

The Department of Homeland Security reported 320,000 applied for asylum. Also, refugees and asylum seekers are not interchangeable — refugee protections are for people abroad, and asylum seekers are those who are already in the country. They are also in different programs. 

The actions of Trump’s administration formed an atmosphere of fear and hysteria toward outsiders. Yet, historically it’s been these outsiders who have made the most significant contributions toward America, enriching both our society and economy. Don’t let irrational fear destroy the foundation immigrants and refugees spent years building. 

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