Our Refugee Hangover

In light of yet another historic Supreme Court ruling regarding access to comprehensive and affordable healthcare, it’s difficult to not look around and count ourselves as one of the lucky few. We may bicker in the halls of Congress or over Sunday dinner about the definition of government intrusion and assistance, but when compared to the lot of nearly 59.5 million people, most women and children, who wander the world displaced with few possessions and desperate for just a few morsels of food, shelter, and relief from fear of persecution and death, our squabbles seem petty and to put it simply, an “embarrassment of riches”.

June 20th marked World Refugee Day, and just as 6.4 million American men and women will be able to retain their health coverage in America it is imperative that we recognize those who are not as fortunate. According to the recently released UN Refugee Report, more than half of all refugees are under the age of eighteen. War and state collapse are the primary drivers for the surge in numbers. When the number one enemy is your very own government and there are few options available for relief, it isn’t difficult to imagine an impressionable youth refusing the tempting hand of anti-state terrorism and the promise of inclusion. But the majority do. They want what we all want – a good job, safe haven for their children and families, food, shelter, and a protective, supportive home state. When the calls for better education and a chance to stand equal with the “haves” of the world echo the same sentiments we here shouted in the streets of our own cities, our lack of action and willingness to turn a blind eye makes mockery of our American values.

It is important to note that the increase in refugee numbers are driven by the very wars and crises America and the developed world have perpetuated in the last decade. There are nearly 3 million displaced persons in Iraq, many who cross into neighboring regions every day in search of sanctuary. Over 1 million Ukrainians have fled their county. Syria has been the biggest driver since the civil war started four years ago. And the most lasting group of refugees to this day – Palestinians who stand at a whopping 5.1 million.

Refugees are the invisible burden of the West, only making it into the news when they have made one last plea for help by crossing treacherous seas in sinking boats. Their deaths considered a burdensome PR predicament for their country of destination. And while some would have you believe that refugees numbering the thousands are flooding into the developed world with hate in their hearts, it is the poor countries, not the rich that have burdened the crisis. Of the top ten countries that are currently housing refugees per capita, nine are in the developing world – Lebanon, Jordan, Nauru, Chad, Djibouti, South Sudan, Turkey, and Mauritania.

It seems that the once promised Golden Door of America has been shut for some time to those who need it the most. Instead it would be best to wipe the words from our Fair Lady’s pedestal and have it read “Not Welcome”.

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