As I wrote last week, the Iraqi refugee crisis is escalating and groups such as Human Rights Watch and Refugees International are calling for an international effort to stave off what some are saying could be the worst refugee crisis yet. Right now Jordan and Syria are baring the brunt of this exodus but soon Iraqi refugees could be settling in a town near you. The Boston Globe reports today that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees “are likely to seek refugee status in the United States.” This presents a problem considering only 500 Iraqis are legally allowed to resettle in the U.S. Bush does have the power to increase this number to 20,000, but experts are saying the number could be even higher, especially among Iraqi Christian refugees, of which there are 120,000. More than 80% of Iraqi Christians who have fled the country are expected to look to resettle in the U.S.
But numbers may not be the biggest problem associated with Iraqis resettling here in the land of the free, home of the brave. If refugees from a country we sought to “liberate” are to seek refuge from their country which is no longer safe for them, what message does that send? One of failure? Yup, and for a President who still claims victory in Iraq is possible, any move that could be construed as an admission to failure does not seem likely. Arthur E. Dewey, Bush’s former assistant secretary of state for refugee affairs says that “for political reasons the administration will discourage [the resettlement]…because of the psychological message it would send, that it is a losing cause.” And what if Bush chooses to open doors only to Iraqi Christian refugees, what message does that send? It does seem like a dire situation for the 1.8 million Iraqi refugees, and even more so, for the Shi’ites who face an even tougher time in predominantly Sunni Syria and Jordan and a fairly unlikely chance for resettlement in the U.S.