The Syrian and American flags intertwinedThe Syrian and American flags intertwined. (Illustration by Thomas Baldwin).Erica Webb - Opinions Columnist

Hope, hardship, home. 2016: a year filled with promise for many people like the 10,000 Syrian refugees escaping the horrors of ISIL who will soon find their new homes in America.

They will not be the first to do so—several current UAB students are among thousands of Syrian refugees who have relocated to the U.S. since the civil war against Assad’s maniacal regime broke out in 2011. However, not everyone is eager to join the welcome party, to say the least. New year, same fear.

The fact that this is an election year has further polarized the nation on this issue. Republican candidates have fired up their conservative base with false assertions and fear mongering towards the mostly Muslim refugees. Why does the “we’re so ‘pro-life’ we’re going to defund Planned Parenthood” and “All lives matter” crowd not want to help them? Hmm. The Democratic candidates share the liberal stance of acceptance and human rights advocacy for the refugees.

I simply cannot agree with people who are prioritizing fear over the fact that taking in these refugees will save thousands of innocent lives.
We lose our humanity when that happens. Although we are known as the world’s “melting pot,” xenophobia is ingrained in American history; in order for refugees to overcome their struggle to survive, we need to overcome our fear of them.

Let’s debunk some of the common misconceptions about the refugees that are deterring many Americans.

They will all be “young, strong men,” says Trump. Nope. According to Time, while it’s true that 62% of the refugees entering Europe are men, the number of men and women entering African and other Middle Eastern countries are about 50/50. The U.S. is giving priority entry to “vulnerable” people, so female-headed families and children will make up the majority here.

A lot of them have cell phones, so they’re obviously well-off enough to not need help. Who needs protection from terrorists when you can use the phone-a-friend lifeline? Syrians with enough money and time to go through the refugee process average a middle class income according to International Business Times, so they can usually afford a cell phone to contact the relatives they are meeting up with or leaving behind.

We’re going to let them in without knowing about their backgrounds. Learning about America’s intensive vetting process is only a Google search away. The vetting process may not be strict in Europe, but America’s process, shown step by step on, takes one and a half to two years with oodles of documentation for refugees to be approved.

They are terrorists in disguise. Referring back to the vetting process: it would be easier for a terrorist to come to the United States as a tourist than a refugee, so this fear is misplaced and irrational.

If you get the chance to talk to one of the Syrian students here, do so. They will share their experiences as long as you keep an open mind. Empathy is key when so many people’s lives are at stake.
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