Home > Uncategorized > Ignoring Refugees Contribute to Terrorism Abroad… Ignoring Poverty COULD Lead to Home Grown Terrorism

Ignoring Refugees Contribute to Terrorism Abroad… Ignoring Poverty COULD Lead to Home Grown Terrorism

November 19, 2015

I’ve been reading and commenting on lots of articles in the NYTimes about the refugee crisis… and I am distressed about the silence on offering ANY help to the refugees where they are currently re-settled. I’ve heard some conservative chatter about the cost for immigration being 12 times higher than the cost of resettlement in a neighboring country… and lots of talk about how many immigrants we should accept from Syria… and lots of talk about spending money on bombs… but there no talk whatsoever on either side of the aisle about how much we should spend to help our allies in the middle east who are absorbing tens of thousands of refugees. If we don’t want the refugees, and Europe doesn’t want the refugees, we should at the very least spend billions of dollars helping the countries that currently house the refugees. If we turn our backs on Middle Eastern families, orphans, and widows fleeing civil wars how can we be surprised that the young men in the Middle East fall prey to the terrorist recruiters?

As I was reading articles and editorials on the refugee crisis, I also read Eduardo Porter’s latest article, “Electing to Ignore the Poorest of the Poor“. In it Porter offers this synopsis of how we are allocating funds today as compared to the past:

All in all, in the early 1980s more than half of government transfers to low-income families went to the very poorest. Thirty years later these families received less than one-third of the government’s help.

This choice, as a society, to target most of our help only to those who can help themselves exhibits a blinkered understanding of what perpetuates the deep, intractable poverty that affects many communities. But it serves a purpose. By believing the poor are not exerting enough effort, we allow ourselves not to care. This permits politicians — and voters — to go normally about their business while 16 million Americans live on $8.60 or less a day.

Later in the article Porter distinguishes “deep poverty”, a persistent condition that affects the 16 million individuals referenced above, from those who are living in poverty because they are employed in low paying jobs:

Deep poverty, according to the scholars who contributed to the journal, is an ecosystem, where bad individual decisions occur within broken environments, where the social glue has come unstuck. Cognitive abilities and character are important at the individual level, but they can’t be cleanly separated from their environment. Indeed, deep poverty has no single, or most important cause — not family, neighborhood, job or education. Plucking at one or the other, alone, won’t do.

“Deprivations come bundled, packaged, and may reinforce each other over time,” said Robert J. Sampson, a Harvard sociologist who is the co-author of an essay in the journal with his doctoral student Kristin L. Perkins. “The implication for policy is that one can’t just think of extracting out individual causes for policy action.”

Porter doesn’t say so directly, but the implication is clear: you cannot fix a systemic problem with a series of uncoordinated, silted, and piecemeal efforts. This implication resonates with me because I wholeheartedly believe that schools cannot solve the problems associated with the learning deficits that are a consequence of poverty: a coordinated effort involving ALL agencies serving children is needed… and such an effort will likely require more spending by local, state and federal taxpayers.

We haven’t spent that money for several years… and one of the disturbing consequences is that we now have 40% of the young men between 16 and 24 unemployed. The women’s unemployment rate is slightly worse. And the rate for African Americans is at least 10% higher. And where to terrorist organizations look for recruits? They seek out disenfranchised young males.

Given our country’s decision to ignore the poorest of the poor I am not surprised to read comments on social media supporting candidates who want to slam the door on immigrants. I am not surprised… but I am disappointed. This is not the country I grew up in. It’s not the country that passed civil rights and anti-poverty legislation, accepted boat people from Cuba, or absorbed thousands of immigrants from Viet Nam after our misadventures there left some of those who supported our efforts in the cold. Those actions warmed my heart and made me feel proud of our country: we helped those in need and accepted responsibility for the consequences of our actions. I want our country to be that way again.

%d bloggers like this: