Paris Attacks: Refugees Again at Mercy of Shifting Public Opinion

The influx of refugees to Europe is a symptom of a massive, growing problem that needs to be addressed. Instead of turning on victims of terror, let's turn our attention toward the terrorists themselves.
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It's an ever-shifting landscape for refugees fleeing to Europe from war in Syria and ISIS slaughter. Only a couple of short months ago, on September 2, 2015, the image of little Aylan Kurdi's body washed up on a shore in Turkey captured the attention of the world, sweeping public opinion toward sudden compassion for refugees. Quotas for refugee acceptance within Europe and the US began to rise as the pressure of public opinion inspired a welcome for refugees.

But with the recent brutal terrorist attacks in Paris, leaving 129 dead and hundreds more injured, perspectives toward refugees are shifting yet again.

Ah, the ever changing tide of public opinion.

Somehow a situation about which much remains unknown is now being used as a proxy hearing for our ability to empathize and welcome, and for the fate and future of thousands of vulnerable people.

What a world we live in. I've traveled to borders of Syria in Turkey and Lebanon visiting refugee camps and hospitals, witnessing some of the most horrifying sights I've ever seen.

I've met women disfigured and de-limbed by barrel bombs in Syria. I've talked with children paralyzed by snipers. I've met with victims of both ISIS and Assad brutality -- women, men, and children whose lives have been destroyed by brutal executions, barrel bombs, and sniper attacks.

Here's a reality check: for the vast number of Syrians arriving in Europe, the attacks that occurred last night in Paris have been a daily occurrence for years. That's why they fled.

More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in this brutal conflict. Nearly 11 million people have been displaced.

But now that Europeans are experiencing tragic, firsthand exposure to the protracted nightmare Syrians have faced for more than four years, some politicians find it the perfect opportunity to turn on the very people who have been fleeing horror perpetrated by (ironically) the same forces that likely instigated the Paris attacks.

One of the involved terrorists had a reportedly fake Syrian passport on him, thought it's not clear whether the passport belongs to him. If it does, then it's possible that this terrorist may have passed through the same door open to refugees fleeing the conflict.

Already Poland is responding by rejecting EU migrant quotas, saying it will no longer accept refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks.

In the Netherlands, far-right leader Geert Wilders released a statement demanding, "Close the Dutch borders. Now! Protect the Dutch people. Stop turning away and denying." Wilders' Party of Freedom in the Netherlands has soared to nationwide popularity during Europe's refugee crisis.

In the wake of the Paris attacks, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson have both called for a halt to U.S. plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees.

It's important to note that when refugees are resettled in the United States, they are the most scrutinized and vetted people to arrive within our borders, undergoing more than seven layers of security checks, medical screenings, fingerprinting, and in-person interviews with Department of Homeland Security officials.

If, within the U.S. and Europe, our collective response is to now close the door to thousands of innocent refugees, we may have a bigger problem on our hands: our own lack of concern for humanity, our stark unwillingness to provide a place of shelter for those fleeing abject horror.

By closing our borders and closing our doors and closing our hearts, we become a monster in our own right, our inhuman response to deny a chance at life to thousands fleeing the same terror we ourselves fear.

The influx of refugees to Europe is a symptom of a massive, growing problem that needs to be addressed. Instead of turning on victims of terror, let's turn our attention toward the terrorists themselves. We can welcome refugees while fighting terror. We can aid victims while preventing attacks.

Paris should be a wake-up call, alerting us to the horror Syrian refugees have experienced for years, not an excuse to shut them out forever.

The night of horror in Paris becomes infinitely more tragic than it already is when we turn our backs and close our doors on people fleeing the very same horror that Europe is now experiencing.

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