Syrian Refugees & Terrorism: A Warped Perception of a Real Crisis

SFL Staff

If my mother had not left Thailand during the Vietnam War and sought refuge in Canada, she would be living a very different life right now. Without the opportunity to build a much better life for herself, which was made possible by the private sponsorship of the Christian Reformed Church of Niagara Falls, my mother could not have become a business owner while taking care of a family. Her story and the many like it offer an important lesson about entrepreneurship, the pursuit of self-interest, and the path to a flourishing economy.

Her story reminds me of the current, harrowing situation faced by many from Syria and the surrounding area. While it is an issue drenched in complexity, stories like my mother’s help bring a few conclusions to light.

The Syrian migration crisis is somewhat unique due to the threat to global security posed by terrorism in the region. With the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) growing in numbers through forced and voluntary recruitment, it is understandable why some are concerned about the idea of granting people from this area entry into other states. How can we assure that safety is well maintained within our homeland while remaining open to new additions to our community?

Since there is no clear-cut way of distinguishing potential ISIS members from distressed escapees, designing an appropriate policy response has been difficult.

Despite all this, deciding to close off our borders completely is a sorely misguided approach. It has been disappointing to see such an extreme response gain so much traction with little proof that it even addresses the problem. It is wildly presumptuous to believe that all Syrian refugees are members of ISIS until proven not. Terrorism can spur from many regions, including internally here in the U.S. The proper response to such attacks is to treat them like any other: present them before court and allow our existing laws to do their work. There’s no need to build new systems to deal with such an improbable risk.

Others may chime in and rebuke that by not accepting any Syrian refugees into our country, we avoid the risk altogether. But the cost of such prejudice and lack of empathy is high when there are Syrian refugees who truly are in dire need of a new homeland, away from the ravages of war.

What we need to be concerned about – more so than the movement of people – is the flow of ISIS’ ideas. This is how they are winning people over. In addition to forced recruitment, ISIS excels in voluntary recruiting and currently has the ability to destabilize the minds of our own people and our allies – no matter where they live. One way we can combat the spread of such authoritarian ideas is by standing firm in our commitment to freedom, including the freedom of movement, despite the potential risks.

As libertarians, we ought to advocate for the free movement of people. Of course, our government must not require citizens to foot the bill to aid and resettle refugees. Rather, the voluntary altruism of private individuals  – of the kind that gave my mother the chance to rebuild – should be stressed as a viable solution. Not only is it the right thing to do but, by barring refugees from entering entirely, we would hamper the growth of our economy. Libertarianism has won many over to the ideas of economic freedom and personal responsibility, and we need to continue to do just that to create a more sane society built on the foundation of liberty and freedom. The Syrian refugee crisis is no exception.