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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Disagreement Over Syrian Resettlement in MA

Governor Charlie Baker’s statement about Syrian refugees on Monday, November 16, came as a surprise to many Bostonians: “I would certainly say no until I know a lot more than I know now.”

It was just two months ago when more than 200 people gathered at Copley Square to show solidarity and support for the Syrian refugees in Boston. However, this changed among many in the wake of the terrible attack in Paris by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. The general public lacks details on the background of the attackers and the origins of ISIL, but one of the common assumptions is that Syrian refugees might be involved with ISIS and perhaps even attempt to carry out attacks in the United States, in case they were permitted to settle here. Hence, many governors have expressed concern and rejected the idea of resettlement of any refugees in the States.

Although, only Congress and the President have the authority to determine how many refugees to admit to the country, according to the 1980 Refugee Act, states can still make their resettlement process very difficult. According to the organization, Global Research, states can deny resources that most times are an absolute necessity for refugees when first resettled into the country. These are basic needs like housing assistance, social workers, and food stamps.

Though many governors stand by their decision to reject Syrian refugees, Charlie Baker changed his stance by the end of the same week by refusing to sign a letter sent by his fellow Republican governors to President Obama to prevent him from continuing with efforts to resettle refugees in the States.

On the same day, there was a protest organized by the International Socialist Organization in Boston in front of the Massachusetts State House. The protesters came to express their views on Baker’s initial reaction to Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attack: “We have to remember that refugees are human beings and civilians and that they do not have anything to do with the same terrorist attacks that they’re escaping from inside Syria from both the regime and extremist groups like ISIS,” explained Nadia Alawa, the founder of Nuday Syria. “If you read further into the background checks of the terrorists that did the attacks in Paris, for example, many of them were actually local Europeans and a couple of them pretended to be Syrians, but they are not the exodus of Syrian refugees that [are] leaving Syria and almost drowning, trying to get on with their lives,” continued Alawa, who has closely worked with Syrian refugees in the New England area, as well as in Europe.

At the University of Massachusetts Boston, many students of Syrian background have been affected personally by the civil war in Syria, as well as by the refugee crisis that followed it. Judy Imane, who studies Human Rights at UMass Boston, shared a story of her relatives in Syria, “About a month ago, a bomb dropped in the neighborhood of my grandmother’s house; they felt the walls rattle but thankfully it didn’t hit them, so they’re constantly living in fear,” said Imane. “There is always a risk or a chance of something happening and I see it on my dad. He’s here, he can’t bring them here. He’s tried everything to try to get them to Turkey… to anywhere… but they will get turned away at the airport.”

Many Syrians are turned back due to assumptions that they are part of the Free Syrian Army, ISIS, Al-Nusra, and other possible actors in the civil war. 

Another student, who is a freshman at UMass Boston, explained that the war has had a drastic affect on his father. “It’s something that has almost made him depressed. The country that he lived in his whole life up to this age, it’s all gone. Everything that he had, everything that was there, it’s all gone,” shared Fatahi. “It’s something that he’s not going to be able to show to his grandchildren, to my children. A country that was united by religion, by opinion, by race (diversity of ethnic groups).”

While some of the students find it hurtful to see their parents experience devastating emotions, few of them have personally lived in Syria and hope to go back and help to rebuild it. “I just hope that peace spreads around soon because it’s draining a lot of energy out of me. Thinking about it every single day is really too much,” said Amr Chalabi, the Secretary of the Muslim Student Association at UMass Boston. “I hope I accomplish my goal to go back and rebuild Syria, again.”