Refugees and Hate Crimes in America

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Although the Syrian Civil War affected those living in Syria most severely, the fallout affects have been felt throughout the world because of the dispersion of refugees. Many of the refugees identify as Sunni Muslims and are fleeing a country run by Shia Muslims. These Sunni Muslims have fled their homeland because of the terror and war crimes being inflicted by the Assad regime. These refugees are fleeing to countries such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy because of their proximity to Syria, but these countries have started to create deals to halt the flow of refugees entering because of the overwhelming number of refugees attempting to relocate in their country. After either getting denied into Greece, Turkey, or Italy or during the relocation process to get the refugees out of those countries, the refugees have started to try and enter the United States or Europe.

The United States of America have not handled the influx of refugees well at all. Due to the recent terrorist attacks in America and Europe, combined with the fear that is still felt from the aftermath of 9/11, many Americans are seeing refugees, and Muslims in general, as dangerous people that shouldn’t be permitted into America.

On January 27, 2017 President Donald Trump signed an executive order, which indefinitely suspended the admission of Syrian refugees and limited the flow of other refugees into the United States. This was said to been done in order to attempt to keep America safer, by keeping terrorists out. Statistics do not agree with that logic. According to Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the Cato Institute, nationals from the seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) singled out by Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015. Over the last four decades, only 20 out of the 3.25 million refugees welcomed into the United States have been convicted of attempting or committing terrorism on the U.S. soil, according to Nowrasteh. Because of these facts, many experts in immigration believe that Trump’s ban was based solely on a phantom fear, and a rash act to show the American citizens that he was trying to keep America safer, even though that isn’t what he was accomplishing. The ban is currently being enjoined by the Court of Appeals from taking effect.

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This ban against refugees entering America has brought up an interesting point of discussion. By enforcing this ban, we as Americans are agreeing that not only should we be wary of all those living in countries and with religions different from our own, but also that there isn’t anyone already inside of the United States with terrorist intentions. This is also an untrue statement. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 80 percent of all jihads who conducted lethal attacks inside of the United States since 9/11 have been an American citizen or legal resident. In addition to this fact, many of those attackers, such as the Orlando nightclub attacker, are second-generation immigrants and therefore have grown up in America. Security experts argue that the risk of routine travel, such as the U.S. visa waiver program that allows citizens from Britain, France, Belgium and 35 other countries to enter the U.S. without a visa and stay for up to 90 days, creates a bigger risk than the threat of foreign terrorists coming through the refugee program.

The increased levels of Islamophobia and fear of Syrian refugees has resulted in a large increase in hate crimes in the United States. Attacks against American Muslims have reached their highest levels since 9/11. These attacks have increased by 78 percent in 2015 with approximately 250 hate crimes nationwide. Those people attacking Muslims have said that their anger is fueled by the terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. Groups of people that oppose these hate crimes believe that Donald Trump’s negative and hateful rhetoric towards refugees and Muslims have legitimatized and encouraged hate crimes. “The negative rhetoric is causing the hate, and in turn the hate is causing the violent acts,” said Alex Nowrasteh.

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While hate crimes against Muslims increased in 2015, all attacks against other minorities such as African Americans, Hispanics, Jews or gays, either declined or increased only a slight bit. The F.B.I. cataloged a total of 5,816 hate crimes in 2015, a rise of about 6 percent over 2014. These hate crimes range from assaults, bombings, threats and property destruction. Until 2015, Jews were the most frequent victims of religious based hate crimes in America. While the number of hate crimes is already quite high, the F.B.I. estimates that about 60 percent of hate crimes go unreported each year due to the victim’s fear of more attacks from their assailants.

It is concerning to see that years after the Holocaust, possibly the largest hate crime of our generation’s recollection, that we as a society still haven’t learned to accept other’s different cultures and religions, and not to fear things that are different from our own beliefs. Donald Trump’s ban against allowing refugees to enter America and the increase of religiously based hate crimes have both evolved from the problem of a lack of information and education surrounding different religions, specifically Islam.

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When a culture or way of life is as ambiguous as Islam is to the majority of Americans, it is easy to convince yourself that that way of life is threatening and therefore something you need to keep at a far distance from yourself and your family. As clearly stated through the facts stated throughout this paper, none of the hate towards Muslims or the Syrian refugees is based on sound logic. In fact, it could be argued that we as a country should be doing more to protect Muslims and the Syrian refugees because of what they are fleeing from and the hate that they are already facing.

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