Martin O’Malley calls for US to pull its actual weight in housing Syrian refugees

An estimated 4.1 million Syrians have been displaced over the course of its civil war, which has been ongoing since 2011. Many have fled to neighboring countries such as Jordan, while others have fled to Europe and elsewhere around the world.

And in pockets of the global community, people are stepping up to take these families in. When Iceland’s government said that it would accept just 50 refugees, over ten thousand of the country’s private citizens offered up their homes in addition. By the end of this year, 800,000 Syrian refugees will be residing in Germany.

The United States has opened its doors to just 1,500. The Obama administration recently announced that we will accept 8,000 refugees in 2016, well below the roughly 70,000 that Oxfam — and a number of Senators and activists — say we can and should admit.

It’s no wonder that when President Obama praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her country’s leadership in accepting refugees, all it did was invite criticism of American inaction. Such criticism was well-deserved. For all of the world-leading we claim to do, our lack of involvement in this humanitarian crisis is shameful. To say that it’s alright for us to have accepted so few refugees because there’s more distance between us and Syria than there is between Germany and Syria is to ignore the sheer scale of our avoidance of the crisis.

Martin O'Malley, via Edward Kimmel / Flickr

Martin O’Malley, via Edward Kimmel / Flickr

So big ups to Martin O’Malley, who today became the first (and could conceivably be the only) presidential candidate to call for the United States to accommodate 65,000 refugees by the end of 2016, saying in a press release that,”We must do more to support Syrian refugees—and we must certainly welcome more than the proposed 5,000 to 8,000 refugees next year.”

Other presidential candidates have acknowledged that the Syrian crisis is a big problem, but that much isn’t in dispute. For most of the field, it’s a pretty big step to get from “Syria has lots of refugees, and that sucks” to “Syria has lots of refugees, and we should help them.”

For her part, Hillary Clinton downplayed the idea of taking in more refugees than the administration’s announced number earlier today, telling Andrea Mitchell that “We should do our part, as should the Europeans; but this is a broader, global crisis…We now have more refugees than we’ve had in many years — I think, since the Second World War.”

As well we should. The Syrian civil war has been described by MercyCorps as “the worst humanitarian disaster of our time.” If there were ever a time for the United States to be taking on its most refugees in 70 years, that time is now.

But Clinton’s comments, naturally, paled in comparison to the way the Republican field is treating the crisis. While Donald Trump said that he was open to the idea of accepting refugees, but refused to put a number on it, Rand Paul expressed skepticism at the idea of accepting refugees from Syria in the first place. Because they’re probably terrorists. Said Paul, quoted by CNN:

…we’ve also run into some problems with accepting so many refugees that we take some of the people who can help rebuild the country. We did this with Iraq, where we won the war, but then we accepted 60,000 Iraqi refugees into our country, some of which wish us harm and tried to attack us.

If these are Martin O’Malley’s points of comparison, he’s going to have this moral high ground all to himself.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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20 Responses to “Martin O’Malley calls for US to pull its actual weight in housing Syrian refugees”

  1. Silver_Witch says:

    Oh please American’s don’t help -we only invoke war and chaos…move along people nothing to see but those well brown people….

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  4. Indigo says:

    You’re right, that photo had a powerful impact. It’s good that global communications media are able to get that kind of imagery circulated so widely and so quickly.

  5. Houndentenor says:

    It actually took the worldwide distribution of a photo of a dead toddler’s body washed up on the Greek shore to get them to agree to take the refugees. At least they are taking them now but it’s sad what it takes to get people to do the obviously right thing. I’m so embarrassed for my species sometimes.

  6. Indigo says:

    I hope we do some of that; the folks in Europe are beginning to step up now. Hungarians are handing out food, shelter is becoming available in Austria and Germany, and the Pope has called for every Catholic parish in Europe to house at least one refugee family. Every little bit helps.

  7. Houndentenor says:

    There’s a lot we can do. We can help with food and toiletries. We can also take some of the refugees here. We are partly responsible for this mess. The least we can do is try to help the people fleeing for their lives.

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  14. quax says:

    Thank you for this article. A call to action I’ve been very much missing in the American media as well as blogosphere.

    One aspect has been missing though. In large parts the Syrian civil war escalated due to IS/Daesh, and the latter is entirely a monster of American making. It wouldn’t exist if the US would have stayed out of Iraq.

    Colin Powell warned Bush before the Iraq war: “If you break it you own it.”

    Unfortunately, the US is not owning up to this mess.

  15. Houndentenor says:

    After over 100 years of “never again,” I look forward to the day when we finally mean it. I doubt I’ll live that long.

  16. Demosthenes says:

    While an admirable gesture, in order to accomplish anything significant, Congress would have to vote funding. The current Congress won’t do it.

  17. Indigo says:

    I’m not sure if there’s anything we can do. Admittedly, we had a hand in generating the circumstances that led to the current crisis and should be stepping in to help settle it, but that’s not what’s happening. In fact, it looks very much as if we’re going to turn a blind eye to the entire situation. That will have to change but the pressure is not yet on to force that change. Meanwhile, the European nations have done a remarkably impressive job of ignoring the situation. Very interesting how they don’t see it . . . kind of like us not seeing the racism that persists in our informal social lives. If this be “Western Civilization,” it’s on a moral downswing.

  18. Bill_Perdue says:

    Massive aid and offers of asylum only seem fair given the totally bipartisan, terrorist, empire building efforts to make the world safe for US corporations by the Bushes, the Clintons and Obama. They created the refugee crises in Palestine, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere.

    The US should withdraw all its military, naval, air, mercenary and ‘security’ forces from the region and permanently end all aid of any kind to the zionist colonizers and IDF thugs in Palestine.

  19. DoverBill says:

    And The Donald retorted: “Yeah, but they’ll have to stand in line behind the Mexicans cuz they love me the mostest?

  20. Ship them all in cattle cars to Poland…You know the rest.

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