President Obama insisted last week that the U.S. would continue to admit Syrian refugees and that to rufuse to do so would be “a betrayal of our values.” Not exactly.
Allowing refugees into the country is not a simple yes or no decision. The refusal to take in Jewish refugees during the Holocaust — which increased the death toll by hundreds of thousands — was the result of anti-Semitism; the reluctance to allow Syrian refugees into the country today is based on safety issues.
Generally, when we’ve accepted refuges into the United States it has been after a war was over. For example, Vietnam U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War ended on August 15, 1973, but refugees from Vietnam did not come to the U.S. until after the fall of Saigon in April 1995.
“Vietnamese migration to the United States has occurred in three waves, the first beginning in 1975 at the end of the Vietnam War, when the fall of Saigon led to the U.S.-sponsored evacuation of approximately 125,000 Vietnamese refugees,” writes the Migration Policy Institute. “This first wave consisted mainly of military personnel and professionals whose association with the U.S. military or the South Vietnamese government made them targets of the communist forces.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration Statistics data reports that we allowed about 150,000 Bosnian refugees into the country, but only after the war was over in 1995.
During WWII the U. S declined its biggest opportunity to save hundreds of thousands of lives when FDR refused to accept Jews fleeing Hitler — and his reason was that the U.S. already had too many Jews. In his book, “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,” historian Rafael Medoff says FDR failed to take relatively simple measures that would have saved significant numbers of Jews during the Holocaust because his vision for America only encompassed having a small number of Jews.