After terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, many Western nations are asking again if we should accept refugees from Muslim-majority nations. Although this question is understandable given our desire for safety and security, here are three reasons we should increase our acceptance of refugees from nations ravaged by ISIS.
1. Accepting Refugees Is Right.
Let's be clear. Most of these refugees are women and children who are literally running for their lives from brutal killers. They are among the most helpless and desperate people in the world. They need our help, and we would be extremely callous and selfish to prioritize potential risks to a few of our people over certain mortal danger for every single refugee we send back. If we are really as brave and good as we profess, it's time for us to show it by accepting people who are fleeing death at the hands of our enemies. (For more on this, see this Time article.)
2. Accepting Refugees Is Good for Us.
Refugees are good for the economy. Despite the propaganda, immigrants are generally good for the surrounding economy. However, refugees are a special class of immigrants. They tend to be better educated and harder workers than the the average immigrant. Also, they are so grateful for a second chance at life, that they engage their communities with great optimism and positive energy. Refugees make us better. (For more on this, see this Bloomberg article.)
3. Accepting Refugees Makes Us Safer.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but accepting loads of refugees is the safest course of action for us for several reasons.
- Countering ISIS claims of a Muslim utopia. It's hard to argue that you're creating the best place on earth when everyone is leaving at great personal risk. If we simply create a safe path for escape, we will literally hollow out the citizenship on which ISIS depends. (For more on this, see this Newsweek article.)
- Preventing World War 3. If we don't allow mass exodus from ISIS dominated areas, extremists will eventually consolidate control over large geographic areas. Eventually, Western powers will face the awful choice of allowing terrorists with nuclear and chemical weapons a permanent geographic haven or engaging in another but far larger ground battle. (Trump's plan of attacking the families of terrorists and Cruz's plan of "carpet bombing ISIS" would only result in more terrorists elsewhere and US leaders before war crimes tribunals.)
- Enduring small attacks. Part of the cost of preventing major war will be enduring relentless small-scale attacks like Paris and Brussels. We will continue to improve in our efforts to foil these plots and to disrupt terrorist cells. However, preventing large scale attacks and full-out war means that the only option for terrorists will be the nearly impossible to stop smaller attacks like we've experienced in the past few years. But regular small attacks - while terrible - are infinitely better than long-term full-out global war.
- Gaining more Muslim allies and cultural competence. The only way to stop terrorism long-term will be (a) helping Muslims combat terrorist ideology and actions within their own traditions and (b) helping non-Muslims understand and befriend our Muslim neighbors. Having more moderate Muslims living in our communities will help both of these objectives.