Refugees and Reporting

Like me, you’re probably wanting to know what’s happening with the Syrian refugees.

Refugees in Operation Triton

These are people. Families. If you’ve seen a picture of a three-year-old Syrian boy dead, you know that something absolutely must be done. We should be ashamed if our hearts were not big enough to help these human beings—these image-bearers of God Himself—in their time of distress.

So then, what are the facts? What’s the right thing to do? Is President Obama’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees moral?

Depending on which sources you choose to trust, you’ll need to take your pick from several drastically different narratives. I’m writing today to defend the view that we should not accept Syrian refugees until we can find out more about who each individual person is and what kind of danger may be involved.

Why does such a view need defending?

Here’s one reason: many Christians are already saying the right thing to do is to bring Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees to the United States, because it is the “Christian” thing to do. In this narrative, we must advocate the importation of refugees in the way and at the time President Obama plans. If not, we are confused about morality, failing to trust God, or in some way being short-sighted or even hypocritical.

That view has some arguments in its favor. After all, we are a melting-pot nation. We are a nation of immigrants. America is a place for people who believe in freedom to pursue a better life. And we are a generous and kind people—by many standards, more so than the people of any other nation. It is right that in a time such as this we should question what kind of people we are, and what our values are. It is right to have pity on the oppressed.

But pity and wisdom are not mutually exclusive. In the remainder of this article I will explain certain facts which lead me to believe it would be neither wise, nor merciful to follow President Obama’s plan for the refugees.

It will take more than merely an appeal to pity to convince Americans that receiving the refugees is wise. The question on which the controversy hinges is, “Will the importation of Syrian refugees lead to more attacks like that on Paris?” An appeal to pity is not going to help us resolve that question. We would not knowingly sacrifice the lives of our own children to attempt to save the children of strangers. American people rightly understand that the government should protect its own citizens.

To determine the right action, we need to know the facts of the situation. Who is coming? What is their age and gender? What do we know or not know about their character and past actions? What is their ideology? Do they condone acts of terrorism and violence? There can be no moral obligation for a nation to receive an army of its own enemies.

The question, therefore, is whether we would in fact be receiving an army of enemies. Or some part of such an army. If that fact can be decided, then all else becomes much more clear. To answer such a question, we must ask whether by President Obama’s policy there is likely to be any number of terrorists admitted into the nation. Any. If his policy involves the importation of terrorists, then it is wrong—even if it also involves the importation of tens of thousands of innocents. The debate is not over whether it is good to receive the oppressed. The debate is over whether, in receiving the oppressed, we can know that we will not also be receiving the oppressors.

How can we find out? When we seek to discover these facts we realize the great failure of American mainstream media. To search the matter, one must turn to partisan (but trustworthy) sources and to direct video testimony from congressmen and officials. In the eyes of mainstream media, such information is not newsworthy.

How is the American public to stay informed when mainstream media sources withhold or subvert the most important facts of the matter? What are the future plans of the Obama administration? What doubts have Obama’s own officials have stated about those plans?

Is it true that, as John Kerry states, the United States will take in up to 85,000 Middle Eastern Refugees in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017?

Is it true that, as Director of the FBI, James Comey states, the US government has no actual plan for how to conduct background checks on refugees:

“We can only query against that which we have collected. And so if someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity or their interest reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing showing up because we have no record of them.”

Consider the above in conjunction with the following statement from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul. Saying that he could not support the Obama administration’s goal, he explained,

“The problem is the FBI testified before my committee, I’ve had Homeland Security officials and the intelligence community who all say to me that we don’t have the systems in place on the ground in Syria to properly vet these individuals. We don’t know who they are… We are a compassionate nation. We have to deal with this crisis. But, you know, this is—could be a very reckless and dangerous policy.”

These points are notably absent from mainstream media’s handling of this controversy. It would be too generous to regard these oversights as “poor journalism.” It is irresponsible (or worse) that an organizations billing themselves as “objective” would not include examples of this kind of relevant testimony from experts close to the situation. As is so often the case, mainstream media purports to show the relevant facts, yet it does not. I dare not comment on the motive. But I will comment on the effect: by obscuring certain facts from the American public, a specific ideological outcome is being protected and promoted.

Under such circumstances, how is the American public to know what is right? When reporters do not report responsibly, truth is obscured. Trust is broken.

Americans face more than one disaster. There is the humanitarian crisis: the fact that tens of thousands of Syrians are not safe in their own country. And there is the crisis of trust: we know that 318 million Americans are in danger, and that those whom we should trust, we cannot trust. Until this more basic crisis is resolved, America will be divided about the Syrian question and ten thousand other questions like it.


Suggested Scripture as we seek God’s wisdom in times of international crisis:

Galatians 5:14
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Genesis 9:6
Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Romans 13:4b
For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Proverbs 25:26
A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.

1 Timothy 5:8
But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Nehemiah 4:14b
Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

Proverbs 22:24
Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go.

Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Updated 8.8.16)