Iraqi refugees should not be turned away

Give me your poor, your tired, your displaced Iraqi refugees.

An estimated 42,000 Iraqis have been referred by the United Nations to settle in America. Of those, 15,000 have already arrived in the country, according to Larry Yungk, an officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). South Florida is expected to receive most of the refugee population, with the Tampa Bay area receiving the second-most.

Many of the refugees scheduled to arrive are religious minorities and widows whose husbands were shot in conflicts.

Given the United States’ current economic condition, some may feel that now is not the time to take on the extra financial burden of aiding the refugees. However, consideration must be given to the severity of and reasons for this humanitarian predicament.

Since the beginning of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, more than 4.7 million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes, according to the UNHCR. Of those, 2 million have fled to neighboring countries. Additionally, UNHCR reports from 2007 showed that 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqis fled each month.

Florida resettles more refugees than any other state, averaging 25,000 to 28,000 per year, according to the St. Petersburg Times. This number may seem large, but it is two orders of magnitude lower than the total number of people exiled from Iraq because of the conflict.

The United States has a moral obligation to the people of Iraq who have faced uninvited hardships as a result of its invasion.

Since the displacements were a direct result of a military initiative, any and all funding should come from federal defense appropriations. It is unfair to stress already burdened social welfare programs with additional projects.

Some charitable organizations have contributed to refugee relief and should be praised for their efforts. However, if the U.S. government is serious about helping those in dire need, Iraqi refugees shouldn’t have to rely on the goodwill of only a few generous groups.

The United States has expended billions of dollars on implements of destruction used in Iraq. Millions have faced unimaginable strife because of a warrantless military conflict. Thousands of lives have been lost and incalculable dreams have been shattered at the hands of war — a war never requested by those it has hurt the most. The only just response to the request by the UN to send refugees to America is to accept them without conditions or complaints.