Stand Against Fear Mongering

Annette Ungermann, Staff Writer

85,000 refugees are to be taken in by the United States in this calendar year, according to the New York Times. There are 20 million classified refugees in the Middle East, more than half of whom are children.

These aren’t just numbers. They’re people.

We are often presented statistics –of jobs lost, people living in poverty, death tolls– that very much desensitize us to grave violations of human rights. It’s true that such large numbers can be hard to grasp. But this particular statistic suggests a group’s basic human rights are up for debate. This is troubling.

Since May of 2016, I have been meeting with a 9-year-old Afghan refugee. While Afghanistan is currently not considered a battlefield compared to Syria, her family was targeted by the Taliban because her father was a US translator to American troops in Afghanistan. They received a special Visa through the non-profit charity No One Left Behind and fled to the United States last November.

The family now lives in a 1-bedroom apartment in Concord, and I go there with my mother and sisters twice a month on the weekends to help teach this girl and her mother English. It’s been slow but steady progress. But more to the point, I’ve learned so much about her family, despite the language barrier that is still fairly present to this day.

Currently, we hear a lot of fear-mongering accusations about refugees, including the gross generalization that they are terrorists. Politicians such as Donald Trump have advocated for the implementation of a process called “extreme vetting”–an ideological test given to anyone who wishes to immigrate to this country. He has even talked of suspending immigration from countries with a history of producing terrorists, according to the Los Angeles Times.

This fear of immigrants and refugees has been seen time and time again. During World War II, the United States infamously turned away the St. Louis, a German ocean liner,  from the port of Miami. This ship had 937 passengers, and almost all were Jewish. The ship was forced to sail back to Europe, and over a quarter of these passengers later died in the Holocaust. The argument was that these refugees posed a serious threat to national security –an idea held by the State Department, FBI, and even President Franklin Roosevelt. They all believed Nazi spies could be in their midst.

The United States also famously persecuted supposed communists in the 1950’s, led by Senator McCarthy. Trump’s current plans for closing borders and turning away entire religious or ethnic groups, are not unlike these previous blunders. History seems to be repeating itself, in a sense, with government officials perpetuating negative stereotypes of people from other countries.

This is a human rights issue, not an excuse to let bigotry get in the way of our better judgement. America has an obligation to do more, and as American people and students, we cannot perpetuate this hate. If threats of terrorism are what frighten you, know that these people are largely not here on their own free will; they have fought to escape war-torn countries, not to bring war to another country. Refugees do not have a great variety of options. Either they remain somewhere where they are in danger, or they flee.

It is true that as students, we don’t have much power when it comes to issues such as these, but we must not allow misinformation from people like Trump to cultivate fear.

Remaining passive, not raising our voices against such misguided proposals, makes us silent accomplices.  Many high school students are not old enough to cast a vote this November, but that doesn’t mean we can’t express our concerns regarding the conduct of our leaders.

Add your voice to the fight against bigotry and fear mongering.