Former U.S. government officials, including former Ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker, have sent a letter to the White House urging President Obama to accept 100,000 Syrian refugees into the United States. Crocker, who currently serves as dean of the Bush School, says this is the worst refugee crisis since World War II and that without strong and immediate U.S. intervention, it may get much worse.
In a letter dated Sept. 17, Crocker’s signature appears along with former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Kristen Silverberg, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, and other ex-officials from the National Security Council, the Department of Defense and the State Department, among others.
In it, the group urges Obama and U.S. Congressional leaders to support the admission of 100,000 Syrian refugees, more than the current worldwide refugee ceiling of 70,000. The group requests the allocation of up to two billion dollars to support the admission and resettlement of the refugees and to help support other nations that are aiding in the crisis. And finally, the letter suggests “expedited yet secure processing measures to ensure that this is a rescue program.”
“This crisis doesn’t just affect the Middle East – it affects the world,” Crocker asserts, adding the suffering of millions of refugees is “immense and unspeakable.”
He says although the U.S. has provided humanitarian assistance, it has been inadequate. “We are the greatest power in the world and it’s time to show that by leading a global effort to alleviate the suffering of these people.”
Crocker, who was U.S. ambassador to Syria for three years under President Clinton, says he got to know the Syrian people well. “They’re a hard-working people, they value quality of life and put a high premium on education,” he notes.
“Those who are fleeing now to Europe are people who’ve had at least enough money to get that far,” he continues. “They were middle class in Syria and they will be middle class in America. They will make positive contributions to America.”
Crocker acknowledges some may be opposed to allowing so many refugees safe harbor in the States, but would remind them “our values are inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’ That’s who we are and it’s time to show it,” he states.
This isn’t immigration, this is a rescue mission.” – Ryan Crocker
To date, the U.S. has accepted around 1,500 Syrian refugees and Crocker says it’s moving slowly because of the laborious security check procedure. “But if it becomes a presidential imperative, all those delays go away,” he explains. “Security checks are necessary, but they must be expedited.
“We had a crisis like this in World War II; we know how to do this,” he adds. “No country takes in more refugees than we do, so this is a ramping up of structures and procedures that already exist.”
Crocker says the two billion dollars requested by the group would be used to “ensure the resources are there for a proper resettlement of these individuals, and their integration into American society and the economy.
“They will be net givers, not takers,” he adds.
The money will also be used to provide further support for nations that have accepted refugees, such as Lebanon and Jordan. “They’ve been incredible hosts, but they need more support,” he says, adding that NGOs such as Mercy Corps, on whose board he sits, and the International Committee of the Red Cross also need more resources to continue providing humanitarian aid.
He says the Syrians will enter the country as documented refugees, “which puts them on a path to citizenship. They’ll have to meet the requirements of every other aspiring citizen.”
Quick and bold action is needed immediately, Crocker emphasizes. “We need to move now, we need to move in a big way and lead others so this becomes a life-saving rescue effort, not the death sentence it is now.”
Media contact: Lesley Henton, 979-845-5591, firstname.lastname@example.org