Sitting across the table from me at a local Afghan restaurant was Mostafa, a 21-year-old Syrian refugee who was recently resettled to the Baltimore area. “They bombed my high school just a few weeks before I was supposed to graduate,” he said as he picked at his food. “Several of my friends died in the bombing. I grew up culturally Muslim, but I don’t believe in God anymore. How could God do this to my country, to my people?” You could sense in his voice that he was at a loss to understand why he was the lone survivor among his group of friends.

Having been in the United States only a few months at that point, Mostafa has been waiting for the rest of his family to arrive from Turkey where they had been living as refugees for several years. Mostafa is one of about 4.6 million refugees from Syria who have been displaced since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

A Nation on the Move

While most Syrian refugees remain in neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq, a small number of the most vulnerable refugees have been resettled to the United States. This past fiscal year the United States received 1,684 Syrian refugees and plans to accept another 10,000 this year.

With half of Syria’s population displaced, our acceptance of 1,684 Syrian refugees includes just 0.03 percent of the total number of Syrian refugees. Many of the Syrian refugees who have been resettled to the United States share an experience similar to Mostafa’s—they feel loss, suffering, confusion, and grief. Yet they are grateful to be able to restart their lives in a place where they do not fear for their safety or freedom.

Controversy Driven by Fear

The arrival of individuals like Mostafa ...

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