These have been some trying weeks, not only for the USA, but for people around the world. After the recently overturned ban on not allowing refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen, and not to allow visa holders from said countries to enter the USA, had an immediate detrimental effect on the lives of many — I wanted to provide some reassurance to those who may still be fearful of refugees coming into the States.
During my medical missions and travels as a nurse, I have worked with refugees in Palestine, Greece, and Jordan. The refugees I have encountered have been from Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Somalia predominantly. They are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, and grandfathers. They are teachers, doctors, nurses, artists, lawyers, shop and restaurant owners, gardeners, mechanics, and professors. They were living peaceful lives and contributing to their communities before war and chaos forced them to flee in order to save their own lives.
For those who are concerned about the refugees coming to American being part of ISIS, let me be the first to tell you these are the very people fleeing from ISIS. I have spoken with Syrian refugees who have lost their parents, siblings, children, friends, families, and neighbors to ISIS. There was a young man in Jordan who fled Syria with his wife and children, but the rest of his family was still living in Syria. He passed out after watching a YouTube video of ISIS beheading a man, who turned out to be his brother. His friend recounted the story of how the man’s 5-year old-daughter called to say, “Come over here quickly, my father died, my father died!” after seeing her father pass out. She didn’t understand what happened to her uncle or why her father had passed out.
The men and women that are being kept out are not unlike me and you, but their life circumstances have created a barrier to obtaining general safety and a chance at a new life. Just as we enjoy the security of being able to live in a country where we are not in an active war zone, where we do not fear our children being bombed while they are in school, and not worrying about if the refugee camp we are in has enough food to feed our families or clean water, they want to be educated and to contribute to a diverse society and have the opportunities that we have for growth and development.
Americans are more likely to die by falling out of bed or being hit by a bus than by being killed by a refugee entering America.
For those who are concerned with safety because of refugees entering this country, rest assured — there has already been a vetting process in place. This process typically takes 18-24 months, but can sometimes take several years. This process involves background checks, multiple interviews, screenings, mountains of paperwork, and measures to ensure that those entering the country are not in any way going to endanger the lives of the citizens of the country in which they are entering as refugees. According to Natasha Hall, an immigration officer with the Department of Homeland Security, the process begins with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), which conducts interviews and screenings, including home country reference checks and biological screenings such as iris scans. Other international organizations participate in the resettlement process by collecting documents and conducting more interviews with the families in order to validate the information and ensure there are no discrepancies. The percentage of refugees who actually end up in the United States is small in comparison to other countries around the world; out of more than 65 million refugees worldwide, about 0.1 percent were resettled in the United States last year.
To date, of the refugees on the list of seven countries included in the (now terminated – thankfully) ban, none of the acts of violence that occurred in America have been at the hands of individuals from any of those countries. Americans are more likely to die by falling out of bed or being hit by a bus than by being killed by a refugee entering America.
Families with small children should be kept safe because children are our future. Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, recently issued a statement saying that Canada would openly accept the refugees that are denied entry into the USA. Perhaps Mr. Trump can learn a thing or two about love, diversity, tolerance, and acceptance from Mr. Trudeau.
In addition to refugees, I have met many immigrants who have come to the United States from a variety of countries overseas who are now doctors serving our communities, researchers developing cures for diseases, graduate students working to further their education so they can help advance knowledge and innovation, lawyers standing for justice, and others who are opening non-profit organizations which serve humanity. My own father was an immigrant who came here and is now a professor educating future generations in the university. Diversity is what makes America great.
In the end, I believe that love will always win, and hate has no place here. So far, our justice system has proved this to be true after the courts refused to reinstate the ban.