The Invisible Wall: Why U.S. Refugee Policy Operates as an Illegal Restraint on the Asylum Rights of Syrians

Author:Colin E. Tansit
Position:Syracuse University College of Law
Pages:125-155
SUMMARY

The international refugee crisis requires the world’s attention. Millions of people are stateless and suffering, and there is an alarming risk of losing an entire generation. The crisis came to a tipping point after the Syrian conflict began in 2011. Now millions of Syrian children are no longer in school and thousands have been separated from their parents. In response to this humanitarian event the U.S. has done little more than provide funding to organizations... (see full summary)

 
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e Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law
ISSN: 2338-7602; E-ISSN: 2338-770X
http://www.ijil.org
© 2017 e Institute for Migrant Rights Press
I would like to thank Professor David Crane for inspiring me to dedicate a great deal of
thought and legal scholarship to the human rights crisis both in Syria and throughout
the world. I would also like to thank my parents for always being a constant beacon
of support throughout my law school experience. Finally, I would like to express my
gratitude towards the Syracuse Law Review for providing me with the opportunity to
work with so many brilliant individuals while draing this paper.
THE INVISIBLE WALL
WHY U.S. REFUGEE POLICY OPERATES AS AN ILLEGAL
RESTRAINT ON THE ASYLUM RIGHTS OF SYRIANS
Colin E. Tansits
Syracuse University College of Law
E-mail: cetansit@syr.edu
e international refugee crisis requires the world’s attention. Millions of peo-
ple are stateless and suering, and there is an alarming risk of losing an entire
generation. e crisis came to a tipping point aer the Syrian conict began in
2011. Now millions of Syrian children are no longer in school and thousands
have been separated from their parents. In response to this humanitarian event
the U.S. has done little more than provide funding to organizations addressing
the situation. at funding, however, can only go so far and millions still re-
main displaced as of today. Moreover, U.S. funding that is bere of actual U.S.
oversight only increases the risk that those donations will fall into the hands of
dangerous extremists and terrorists groups. Despite its per se adherence to in-
ternational law, U.S. refugee policy as enforced has caused a de facto violation
of that same body of law. Stringent restraints such as admittance of only trivial
numbers of Syrians representing less than one percent of total refugee admissions
per year, eectuates a policy that is discriminatory in eect with less than one
percent of total admissions being of Syrian descent. Furthermore, notwithstand-
ing his per se adherence to domestic law, President Barack Obama has failed to
utilize sections of the U.S. Code that allow for increases in refugee admittance
during times of emergency. Using scare tactics as their weapon, politicians have
ramped up protectionist measures akin to those seen in WWII and questioned
in the controversial case Korematsu v. United States. However, there is no ev-
IV Indonesian Journal of International & Comparative Law 125-55 (January 2017)
126
Tansits
idence to support the conclusion that large amounts of terrorists are sneaking
into the country disguised as refugees. Although in the past year the U.S. has
moved forward in bringing in more refugees, recent legislative proposals aim to
postpone and prevent Syrians from entering the country. While addressing the
refugee crisis must balance both national security concerns and humanitari-
an needs, fear mongering should not overshadow the dire situation that these
innocent victims face. e best solution to deal with the burgeoning threat to
this large group of helpless individuals is an interagency taskforce charged with
developing a policy to balance national security concerns with humanitarian
needs. Without a taskforce to balance these factors, the result may be disastrous.
Keywords: Refugee Laws, Immigration Law, Humanitarian Crisis, Law Reform, Hu-
manitarian Law.
I. INTRODUCTION
“Eight Syrians were just caught on the southern border trying to get into
the U.S. ISIS maybe? I told you so. WE NEED A BIG & BEAUTIFUL
WALL!”1 President-elect Donald Trump has certainly been outspoken
regarding Syria and Syrian refugees.2 e Syrian conict and the refu-
gee crisis resulting from the conict has been a polarizing issue. Syrian
citizens living through the conict and humanitarian crisis, however,
have a view much dierent than that of Mr. Trump. Residents of Kaf-
ranbel, Syria put together a video mocking the international response
to Syria.3 In the video, dierent events (such as protests and attacks)
are acted out while two people representing the United States (“U.S.”)
and European Union sit idly on the side.4 When a chemical attack is
1. @realDonaldTrump, T (Nov. 19, 2015, 8:11 AM), https://twitter.com/
realDonaldTrump/status/667329429912338432?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw.
2. Please note that the unrest and conict in Syria is ever changing. Many of the
statistics referenced throughout this Note, most notably death tolls and dis-
placements, increase or change on a daily basis.
3. Ruth Sherlock, Syrians Mock West’s Response to Chemical Weapons Attack,
T T (Sept. 24, 2013), http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/world-
news/middleeast/syria/10331996/Syrians-mock-Wests-response-to-chemi-
cal-weapons-attack.html.
4. Id.

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