The United Nations reports that there are more than 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon and more than 600,000 in Jordan (“One million Syrian refugees flooding Lebanon,” April 4). The Assad regime has terrorized its citizens, killing more than 100,000 people and displacing 6.5 million of its citizens. The United States has generously provided nearly $2 billion in aid for humanitarian assistance for the refugees and displaced families. However, according to Human Rights First, the US government has provided only 121 refugee visas for Syrians to enter the United States. This is unconscionable. The message is: We will donate money to relief agencies, but we will not open our border to provide a safe haven for the refugees.
In addition, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the US agency responsible for the administration of granting temporary protected status for Syrians who are already here on a temporary visa, essentially closed the registration for initial filings in December. Does this make any sense?
The other option for Syrians in the United States is to apply for asylum, and thousands living here have done so. This can be a yearslong and legally arduous option, leaving asylum seekers in limbo and often without work authorization.
Syrian refugees need our help now, and the Obama administration must wake up to the moral urgency of this crisis.
The writer is an attorney who specializes in asylum law and is co-coordinator of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Salem State University, where he is a professor of social work.