Refugees vs. Illegal Immigrants: How Do We Handle the Situation

Written by Emelia Ferrero. Media by Mary Todd Christian.


APTOPIX Mideast Syria

Most Americans by now are aware of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. It has been defined as the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII, with over 11 million refugees displaced as of September 2, according to Mercy Corps. Although these refugees have no place to go or turn, many European countries are having trouble accepting them due to cultural climate, economic burden,  infrastructure, and now because of security risks – ISIS has revealed there have been thousands of undercover jihadists already smuggled into Europe, posing as refugees. Keep this in mind as America has joined the list of countries taking in Syrian refugees. Obama raised the ceiling of the number of refugee admissions into America from 70,000 to 85,000, pledging at least 10,000 of those admissions for Syrians only on Thursday.

With presidential elections just over a year away, many potential presidential candidates have voiced their opinions on what is best for America concerning this crisis and have even compared it to the Latin American Illegal Immigration Crisis. Opinions vary across the board; Hillary Clinton supports illegal immigrants’ path to citizenship and says that as Americans “we should do our part” for Syrian refugees. Donald Trump, on the other hand, suggests building a wall to keep out illegals, and thinks taking in Syrians poses too great a security risk.


To help form my opinion on these matters, I interviewed Amanda Scott, a sophomore majoring in International and Cross-Cultural Studies and Social Work at Greenville College. Amanda has been actively involved in trying to improve the Syrian Refugee Crisis by successfully orchestrating an offering for Doctors Without Borders at Thursday night’s Vespers at Greenville College, and by organizing an “essential items” drive for refugees.

Me: How would you compare the Syrian Refugee Crisis to the Latin American Illegal Immigration Crisis?

A: The situation is similar but different. …For [Latin Americans], some are fleeing gang wars and drug problems, and some are coming for better employment and to escape poverty…whereas the Syrians, their situation is more of an emergency. For the Syrians, it’s more of “you either convert to Islam or I’m gonna kill you on the spot” and that may happen with drug related [issues] with [Latin Americans] but I don’t think it’s quite as [dire]. The Syrians have no choice. They’re watching their homes being bombed, their families are being killed right in front of them… and the Syrians have much farther to go so the risks they are taking to get here is much greater…

Me: So even if, say, particular families in Mexico are facing a situation, because the Syrians as a country are facing it together we should probably face it differently than those [families] in Mexico?

A: Uh, maybe.  I think we should give asylum to anyone who is facing a crisis like that, whether gang wars or ISIS.

Me: Should we treat it a little differently, just because of the scale?

A: Yeah. The Syrian situation is genocide. It’s more than just gang violence. Anyone who is not following Islamic State…is being exterminated. I would equate it to… the Holocaust. It hasn’t gotten there yet, but it’s still the same concept of exterminating a group of people who are not like you.

My Take on These crises:

America can’t help everyone, and the Syrians call for more of our attention right now. Although many Hispanic illegal immigrants are facing situations just as bad as that of the Syrians’, each Hispanic situation is individual; the Syrian refugees all are facing the same hardships together.


America has to catch up in terms of letting others in legally. A main reason why there are over 11 million illegal immigrants living in the States is because of a backlog. As of May 2015, the waiting list for those trying to enter the U.S. legally stood at 4.4 million, and some have been on the list for more than 15 years. For those requesting refugee status, the process could take years. In an emergency situation people just can’t wait that long, and thus are forced to enter the U.S. illegally. Add the mass number of Syrian refugees to the mix, and Latin Americans have an even lesser chance of getting into the country legally and quickly.

We don’t have to wait for our government to help solve these crises. Millions of people across the world are trying to come to America just to survive. Through monetary and/or item donations, we can help now. I also encourage you to play an active role in government; if you choose to vote for our next president in November 2016, consider how he or she treats people in need, especially refugees and immigrants.


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