America should mirror Nashville’s acceptance of refugees

Nashville must stand strong and continue to set an example for providing a home for those fleeing violence in their home countries

It would be both inhumane and irrational of President Trump to lower the refugee quota for 2018 to below 75,000 people per year. The President has proposed that the United States lower the quota to 50,000 for the following year, less than half of President Obama’s quota of 110,000 refugees. While it is extremely unlikely that the President will maintain the current quota, lowering the ceiling of 75,000 refugees is the best we can hope for.

In contrast, over the last fiscal year, Nashville accepted 2,051 refugees. This is a 30 percent increase from the previous year. This swell was directly correlated to the growing number of people that are classified as displaced people–those who are unable to return to their home country safely. Historically, the United States government has been a world leader when it comes to accepting people fleeing violence and persecution. For a long time, Nashville has been a destination for refugees, accepting people from more than a dozen nations each year. It’s immoral and unjust to neglect this role, especially given that violent situations abroad have displaced over 65 million people.

Where America has failed, Nashville has excelled. At the grassroots level, several organizations that help refugees adapt to American life have recently sprung up. One such organization is the Nashville International Center for Empowerment. This group receives refugees at the airports, provides them with a home-cooked meal, and helps them furnish their new homes. Nashville has also demonstrated its receptivity to immigrants at the government level. 

“We have welcomed many new people to Nashville and they have become incredible community leaders and members of our economic growth,” said Nashville Mayor Megan Berry in 2015, referring to refugees in Nashville.

America is morally obligated to provide shelter during this refugee crisis.

The rest of the nation must take after Nashville. If we disregard the refugee crisis, it will signal to other countries that they aren’t obligated to help refugees either. If a country with the capacity and resources like the United States reduces its efforts to provide aid to refugees, then countries that aren’t as well off will mimic this inaction.

In the past, Tennesseans have demonstrated their willingness to help refugees. Recently, however, legislators in the state Senate filed a lawsuit against the federal government for failing to give sufficient information and funding to the state before settling refugees. Though it is understandable for Tennesseans to expect that the arrival of refugees to be made public knowledge, it is morally unacceptable to turn them away.

America is morally obligated to provide shelter during this refugee crisis. Despite this, critics will argue that refugees pose both security and economic dangers to the United States. However, these fears are unfounded.

While a concern for the nation’s security is valid, it is misplaced in regards to the influx of refugees. Before admittance into the United States, refugees go through incredibly stringent inspection. Additionally, there have been no fatal acts of terrorism within the United States that are linked to any of the three million refugees accepted into America since 1980. Nashville, along with the rest of Tennessee, needs to continue to set an example for the rest of the country and accept refugees as they are, trusting the screening system that is in place. 

The argument that economic strain will ensue following the arrival of refugees is unsound. Studies have shown that within eight years after arrival to the United States, a refugee will begin paying more in taxes than they receive in government aid. This signifies that the benefits of admitting refugees outweigh the costs.

Denying refugees admittance to the United States is not just an economic or a logistical issue. It is a matter of life and death for millions of people who are forced to leave their countries in order to survive. Refugees are subjected to inconceivable violence as they desperately seek safety, and impeding their access is not only cruel but will also increase their vulnerability immeasurably. These people cannot be neglected. The United States cannot fail as it has in the past; it must not refuse to grant asylum to refugees due to baseless fears.

Alyssa Quinn is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached alyssa.quinn@vanderbilt.edu.

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