“Including those murdered in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), the chance of an American perishing in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil that was committed by a foreigner over the 41-year period studied here is 1 in 3.6 million per year. The hazard posed by foreigners who entered on different visa categories varies considerably. For instance, the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year while the chance of being murdered in an attack committed by an illegal immigrant is an astronomical 1 in 10.9 billion per year. By contrast, the chance of being murdered by a tourist on a B visa, the most common tourist visa, is 1 in 3.9 million per year. Any government response to terrorism must take account of the wide range of hazards posed by foreign-born terrorists who entered under various visa categories.” From Cato Institute Terrorism and Immigration, A Risk Analysis.
It is three o’clock in the morning and I can’t sleep. Maybe it’s all the excitement of turning the good age of Heinz 57 sauce, maybe it’s the excitement of a birthday where I heard from people around the world – I’m not sure, but it seemed as good a time as any to write.
If you ask people about the refugee crisis, they will generally think of Syria. Images of Aleppo have haunted our media and us. We see before and after pictures and cringe at the destruction and death that shadow once thriving markets and neighborhoods.
The horror in Syria is real and it is right that we pay attention, but not at the expense of forgetting the refugee situation in the Horn of Africa. In its third decade, the Somali refugee situation is the most prolonged in the world. Donor and compassion fatigue add to the hopelessness that many of these refugees feel. Babies are born in exile while grandparents die in exile. And it is unconscionable to forget Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries with massive internal and external displacement, something that the West must take partial responsibility for due to our involvement since 2001 and 2003.
It is this humanitarian crisis, considered the worst in recent history, that will be affected by the order temporarily banning refugees into the United States.
For 6 years I have been writing about refugees in the United States and around the world. This group of people has had my heart for years; not just because it has suddenly become popular.
This past 24 hours we have watched a wealthy, western country bow to an idol of safety that headlines fear instead of fact.
I am not a scholar, but there are scholars and researchers that study this issue with carefully collected statistics and low margins of error. Here is what an institute that studies immigration points out:*
- For 30 of the 41 years studied (1975-2015) no Americans were killed on U.S. soil in terrorist attacks caused by foreigners or immigrants.
- For every 7.38 million nonterrorist person who entered the country in studied visa categories, one foreign-born terrorist entered. Important note: This does not mean that the terrorist was successful in killing people. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, they were unsuccessful.
- Of the 3,252,493 refugees admitted from 1975 to the end of 2015, only three of refugee status killed anyone. That was in the 1970s and they were Cuban. The Tsarnaev brothers of the Boston Marathon bombing came to the U.S. on tourist visas and later applied for asylum.
- The vast majority of foreigners who committed terrorist attacks did so on tourist visas. 99.7 percent of the murders committed by terrorists on tourist visas occurred on 9/11 by 18 men.
- A sensible terrorism screening policy must do more good than harm to justify its existence, meaning that the cost of the damage the policy prevents should at least equal the cost it imposes.
The article is a clear, non-emotional appeal to reason. The conclusion is that the United States should continue to devote resources to screening immigrants and refugees, but that a moratorium would impose “far greater risks than benefits”.
I will now appeal on an emotional level.
To those of you who are concerned, can I challenge you to learn more about refugees? I encourage you to listen to some personal stories and ask refugees questions about their journeys. Get to know the people inside the statistics.
Here are some questions I would pose:
- What is your personal experience with refugees and immigrants? This includes your own family history. How does this experience affect your view of refugees and immigrants?
- What is your greatest fear about refugees? When did you begin feeling this way?
- If you are part of a faith tradition, what does your faith teach about strangers? Aliens? Those who are not the same as you are?
As humans, many factors go into our deeply held beliefs. It is easy to turn our backs on issues, unwilling to be challenged. It is also dehumanizing to see people just as an “issue”. We must see people as people, as image-bearers, not issues.
It is far more difficult to turn our backs when we see real people, when we know people by name. To turn away those in such desperate need is to deny our own humanity.
So I beg you, study current policies. Read the report I’ve cited. Fight the fear. Stand for justice. Seek the welfare of the cities where you live, and that means working for the displaced and the homeless; for the refugee and the poor.
Choose to walk away from fear. Choose to love as you are loved; choose to offer your heart and your resources to those in need.
It’s no longer the time to sit back and wonder what you think. It’s time to think and act.
It’s time to stand for all that is true and good and holy and just.
- Welcoming the Stranger by Ruth Melkonian-Hoover
- Welcoming the Refugee – Choosing to Walk Away from Fear
- Yearning to Breathe Free
- Storytelling: Refugees Stories in Their Own Words
- List of well-known refugees – most notably, Albert Einstein.
Here are ways to help:
- Find out more about the resettlement process from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. You can also find ways to help here:
- Give to Heart for Lebanon – This is an amazing organization that works with refugees around Lebanon focusing on food distribution and education. The organization is based on developing relationships with refugees. I can’t speak highly enough about this organization.
- Make health/hygiene kits. I reached out to this group and they responded with this: “Thank you so much for your email – and your support for our mission. We will gladly accept shipments at our Tigard Oregon Distribution Center – 14150 SW Milton Court, Tigard OR 97224. Again, thank you for your interest in our project – We are so touched by the kindness and compassion from people around the U.S.”
*Cato Institute – Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis