Roughly four million Syrian have chosen to escape the three-cornered bloodbath among Shi’ite Ba’athists (the Assad regime), Wahabbist Ba’athists (Deash/ISIS/ISIL), and Wahabbist terrorists (al Qaeda, a.k.a. al Nusra) that is ruining their country. Europe (along with Canada – in the midst of its election campaign) is dealing with then question of how many, if any, escapees they should take in. For now, the debate has barely registered in the United States. That should change. In fact, we should take in as many as we can.
I say this without respect to the moral and emotional arguments that usually come with this issue, although I wouldn’t necessarily ignore them. I would say – and I am saying – that there are also practical reasons for doing this. In other words, welcoming as many Syrian escapees as possible is very much in America’s interests.
Firstly, the Syrian escapees are far more likely to appreciate American freedoms than typical immigrants. I say this not to disparage the latter (and apologies if it reads that way), but to highlight the former. These are people who could have chosen among Sunni or Shi’ite tyrannies – indeed, among Sunni and Shi’ite terrorist tyrannies – but instead of trying to reach any of them, they risked life and limb to get away from all three. They have “voted with their feet” for a democratic home; they will appreciate the democracy that they can call home.
This also means, they can be a force for freedom in Syria itself, albeit from afar. One of the keys to winning the Cold War over the Soviet Union was the role of the Eastern European diaspora in America. They reminded the rest of us that the nations they left behind were still imprisoned, and provided hope to those left behind. A Syrian diaspora can do similar – perhaps even form a government-in-exile as a rallying point for opposition to Assad, Deash, and al Nusra (and yes, I do think a democratic Syria is in America’s interest; I’ve been saying it for years).
Finally, escapees from tyranny usually include more high-skilled labor than “economic migrants”. I do not wish to rehash the arguments regarding the wisdom of welcoming low-skilled labor in large numbers, but “political refugees” (the conventional term for escapees from tyranny) usually include much more of the high-skilled labor that can make the American economy more productive in general.
So, in short, we’re talking about escapees who have shown they reject any and all tyranny or terrorism by their act of escaping, are large enough as a group to have tremendous impact on their homeland even from abroad, and likely include a greater swath of high-skilled labor than usually seen in migration debates. For these reasons – no matter one’s view on immigration in general or unauthorized immigration in particular – America should welcome escapees from Syria.
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