Just Keep Swimming.
Last week’s deadly Paris attacks have once again cast a new shadow on America’s long-running debate over immigration and national security (as well as a whole array of other controversial topics). As of Thursday, U.S. lawmakers have halted a program aimed at resettling thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn homeland — a move that potentially complicates President Obama’s Middle East policy efforts.
The newest House bill no doubt reflects upon various shifting sentiments over an issue where emotions have (and continue to) run extremely deep, especially in the aftermath of the terror attacks that occurred in the City of Lights, which killed at least 129 people.
The catastrophic event has placed the topic of refugees fleeing Syria up front and center on Capitol Hill, where leaders from both sides continue to fear that America could face a similar attack. Republican leaders continue to oppose President Obama’s efforts to take in 10,000 more Syrian refugees during the next fiscal year, saying that the resettlement plan not only opens the floodgates to people whose backgrounds have not been fully vetted, but is incredibly loosely tracked and could have the intent of carrying out terrorist acts on American soil.
More than two dozen governors — mostly Republicans— have raised concerns about Syrian refugees relocating to their state arguing that the safety of Americans was at stake after it was discovered that the carnage in Paris was infiltrated by a man who entered Europe with a Syrian passport while posing as a migrant. “This is a moment where it is better to be safe than sorry,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters. He later said at a press conference prior to the House voting: “It’s a security test, not a religious test. This reflects our values. This reflects our responsibilities. And this is urgent.”
Democrats, however, go on defending the plan, saying it is at the core of American values. “We do not have religious tests for our compassion,” said Obama. “That’s not who we are.”
“Slamming the doors in their faces would be a betrayal of our values,” Obama added at the conclusion of the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey earlier this month. Syrian “refugees are the victims of terrorism.” He also said during his recent visit to the Philippines: “We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”
The issue no doubt continues to sharply divide party lines– with about 8 in 10 Republicans showing disapproval and nearly two thirds of Democrats supporting the president’s policy. “The fact this vote had bipartisan support makes it much more difficult for the president to say that this is simply about the GOP using the politics of fear to build the opposition to him,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “The terror attacks have dramatically changed the political dynamics surrounding these issues to the point that, for the time being, it will be difficult for the president to gain much more traction on this issue.”
Among the American general public, the issue is stirring controversy as well. Many are weighing in on the situation, causing a similarly difficult debate on whether or not to allow more migrants fleeing violence into the country. A recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey online poll found that 56% of Americans disapprove, while 41% approve.
Empathy among voters in the U.S. has certainly waned following the horror in Paris. It has also hugely affected us, the Millennial population, a generation known to have various strong values and opinions over social justice issues– such as the current U.S. debate over immigration, refugees, and security.
It’s already been proven that Millenials are more socially aware than previous generations, with digital media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram having allowed for this development. However, the extent with which users of such sites are informed often varies, with reporters using often confusing jargon, leading many of us to question how exactly we should go about addressing these issues.
Despite the campaign rhetoric and the constant noise of a 24-hour news cycle, it was reported that most young people believe the political system is broken, with 83 percent saying they have lost have faith in Congress. Patience among our generation is decreasing and after years of political inaction and failure, Millenials are striving to take crises into their own hands.
From the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter to the climate justice movement and the immigrant rights movement, our voices continue to capture the attention of the American people. As politicians and the media talk about left versus right, Millennial movements “are moving forward.”
Bob Geldof, singer of of popular Irish band The Boomtown Rats, supports this steadfast march towards change. He issued a somber message this week to Millenials about the responsibilities they now face as the conflict in the Middle East rages and terror attacks blight Europe.
“This generation, your generation, is already stained with blood. Your age group are the killers of Syria. The people your age are murdering people in Beirut, Sharm el Sheikh. And most immediately in our minds right now, those people who went to a pop concert in Paris, who tried to watch a football match, who went out with their girlfriends or their parents for a drink or a coffee, those people were killed by people of your generation,” he said at the One Young World conference in Bangkok, Thailand.
Geldof urged Millennials to put aside beliefs and emotions in the aftermath of recent terror attacks. He went on to criticize young people for not always using the tools available to fully make a difference:
“[The older generation] gave you the mechanism and technology of this century. Right now it is being used for triviality, or seriousness in killing, but not seriousness in thought […] You are the serious generation. Forget the tweeting that’s about bullshit. Tweet about serious things. Go back to your countries, get real with your governments, get the people of your age group to understand precisely what happens. Stop with violence, it doesn’t work. Come back to your country and take action.”
Millennials are not just the future– we are the present. We are at the forefront of the fight for a more just and stable world. If enough of us push together towards a new vision, the world will inevitably begin to move.
Shifting the debate won’t be enough though. Action is needed– action to help, to change, to reshape, and to reform. #ItsOnUs to lead the conversations surrounding immigration (and everything else) towards a better solution. Together, we can either sink or swim and tragedies like the recent carnage in Paris only further remind us that we must indeed keep swimming. To just keep swimming.