The U.S. Should Let In 100,000 Syrian Refugees

Next Debate Previous Debate
RefugeesDebate 398x239

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Since the Syrian Civil War began in 2011, more than 4 million Syrians have fled the country, creating the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. Most have fled to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, but many have risked death to reach Europe and the possibility of a better life. Unlike Europe and Syria’s neighbors, the United States has had the advantage of picking and choosing from afar, taking in just over 2,000 Syrian refugees since the war’s start. The Obama administration has pledged to take another 10,000 in 2016, but there are some who suggest that we are falling well below the number that we can and should accept. What are our moral obligations, and what are the cultural, economic, and security issues that must be taken into account? Should the U.S. let in 100,000 Syrian refugees?

  • Robert Ford 90px


    Robert Ford

    Sr. Fellow, Middle East Inst. & Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Syria

  • DavidMiliband 90px


    David Miliband

    President & CEO, International Rescue Committee & Fmr. U.K. Foreign Secretary

  • David-Frum90px


    David Frum

    Senior Editor, The Atlantic

  • JessicaVaughan 90px


    Jessica Vaughan

    Dir. of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies

    • Moderator Image


      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

See Results See Full Debate Video Purchase DVD

Read Transcript

Listen to the edited radio broadcast

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to the unedited radio broadcast

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Subscribe to the Podcast
Robert Ford 90px

For The Motion

Robert Ford

Sr. Fellow, Middle East Inst. & Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Syria

Robert S. Ford is currently a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, where he writes about developments in the Levant and North Africa. From 2011 to 2014, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Syria, after which he retired from the U.S. Foreign Service. In this role, he was the State Department lead on Syria, proposing and implementing policy and developing common strategies with European and Middle Eastern allies to try to resolve the Syria conflict. Prior to this, he was Deputy U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (2008-2010); U.S. Ambassador to Algeria (2006-2008); Deputy Chief of Mission in Bahrain (2001-2004); and Political Counselor to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad (2004-2006), during the tumultuous establishment of the new, permanent Iraqi government. Ford received the Secretary’s Service Award, the U.S. State Department’s highest honor, in 2014, and the John F. Kennedy Library’s Profile in Courage Award, for his stout defense of human rights in Syria, in 2012.

Learn more

DavidMiliband 90px

For The Motion

David Miliband

President & CEO, International Rescue Committee & Fmr. U.K. Foreign Secretary

David Miliband is president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where he oversees the agency’s humanitarian relief operations in more than 30 war-affected countries and its refugee resettlement and assistance programs in 25 U.S. cities. Under his leadership, the IRC has expanded its ability to rapidly respond to humanitarian crises and meet the needs of an unprecedented number of people uprooted by conflict, war, and disaster. Previously, in the U.K., Miliband was the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State for the Environment, and a member of parliament. His accomplishments have earned him a reputation, in former President Bill Clinton's words, as "one of the ablest, most creative public servants of our time," and as an effective and passionate advocate for the world's uprooted and poor people. As the son of refugees who fled to Britain from continental Europe during WWII and its aftermath, Miliband brings a personal commitment to the IRC's work.

Learn more


Against The Motion

David Frum

Senior Editor, The Atlantic

David Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic and chairman of the board of trustees of the UK think tank Policy Exchange. From 2001 to 2002, he served as speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush and, from 2007 to 2008, he served as senior adviser to the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaigns. Frum is the author of eight books, including, most recently, the e-book Why Romney Lost and his first novel Patriots. His first book, Dead Right, was described by Frank Rich of the New York Times as “the smartest book written from the inside about the American conservative movement” and by the late William F. Buckley as “the most refreshing ideological experience in a generation.” His memoir of the Bush administration, The Right Man, was a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Learn more

JessicaVaughan 90px

Against The Motion

Jessica Vaughan

Dir. of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies

Jessica M. Vaughan serves as Director of Policy Studies for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a DC-based research institute that examines the impact of immigration on American society and educates policymakers and opinion leaders on immigration issues. She has been with CIS since 1992, and her area of expertise is immigration policy and operations, covering topics such as visa programs, immigration benefits, and immigration law enforcement. Vaughan recently completed several major projects on immigration and crime, including a Department of Justice-funded project studying the use of immigration law enforcement in transnational gang suppression efforts. Previously, Vaughan was a foreign-service officer with the State Department, where she served in Belgium and Trinidad & Tobago. Her articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, Economist, and other publications. She has testified before Congress several times and advises state lawmakers and agencies on immigration issues.

Learn more

Declared Winner: For The Motion

Online Voting

Voting Breakdown:

62% voted the same way in both pre - and post-debate votes(49% voted FOR Twice, 8% voted AGAINST Twice, 5% voted UNDECIDED Twice). 38% changed their minds (3% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 21% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 4% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 7% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST, 3% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 0% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED)| Breakdown Graphic

About This Event

Event Photos

PrevNext Arrows
    PrevNext Arrows


    • Comment Link Simon Morgan Sunday, 05 June 2016 20:37 posted by Simon Morgan

      I long for the day when someone with cohones at IQ2 poses this question of countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran.

      You know, wealthy countries that border the region of conflict, and are entirely responsible for it in the first place? That are theocracies practising the same religion as most of these refugees? Where theoretically they will be happy to settle?

      But perish the thought! No, only the US and the West must be held solely accountable for any refugees.

      Not even Russia, which gaily sends its warplanes and tanks all over Syria, is to take any responsibility.

      What a load of horse manure it all is.

    • Comment Link Mason209 Saturday, 07 May 2016 14:26 posted by Mason209

      Ethan Harrin, in Europe upwards of 60% of asylum seekers are not legit refugees. Either they are not Syrian, or they are military age males.

      We have also been lowering our screening standards.

      “We know the 18- to 24-month vetting process for Syrian refugees has severe vulnerabilities after FBI Director James Comey warned about the federal government’s inability to thoroughly screen Syrian refugee applicants for terrorism risk and after the Department of Homeland Security’s investigative arm warned about ISIS’s capability to print fake Syrian passports for terrorist infiltration,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) told the Free Beacon.

      The administration has not specified what mechanisms it has put in place to facilitate the screening of a larger number of refugees on a three-month timeline, according to Kirk.

      “Given that the administration has not explained to the American people whether and how it fixed these and other known vulnerabilities to terrorist infiltration, it is highly irresponsible for the administration to reduce the 18- to 24-month vetting process for Syrian refugees down to three months to meet its artificial and ideologically-driven goal of bringing 10,000 Syrian refugees onto U.S. soil by September,” said Kirk, who recently introduced legislation to impose enhanced screening measures to prevent terrorists from taking advantage of the U.S. refugee program.

      It would be text book insanity to look at the turmoil in Europe, and think we will somehow magically be immune.

    • Comment Link jimmww Saturday, 26 March 2016 18:27 posted by jimmww

      Perhaps we should take care to admit only moderate Muslims, not the radical, the devout.
      Here is a modest proposal to allow the discovery of the elusive Moderate Muslim:

      The easy way, I thought, was that the moderate is not devout, by the imam's definition. So a question list should be satisfactory, assuming that the subject does not invoke al-taqiyya (the obligation to lie to infidels).

      The questions I would like to see responded to are:

      1. Do you accept every word of the Qur'an as God's word, inerrant, unalterable and final? Has the Hadith the force of God's word?

      2. Are you willing to obey every clear implication of God's word as transmitted in these holy writs despite the appearance of immorality as interpreted by the rest of the world? Despite negative material repercussions on yourself, your family, your nation, and the Ummah?

      3. Is attainment of Paradise the only important goal of living?
      Is a suicide bomber/martyr guaranteed to enter Paradise?

      4. Do you believe that jihad in both its expressions is the highest form of service to Allah? Measurably more important than the five pillars?

      5. Do you believe that it is the duty of every Muslim to do whatever is necessary to bring the entire world into dar-el-islam (submission)?

      6. Do you believe that there is no moral obligation to tell the truth to kafir? Do you follow Mohammed's example to deceive in order to defend and advance Islam?

      7. Do you believe it is shameful for Muslims to be subject to a non-Islamic government?

      8. Do you believe that shari'a law is binding on all people, not just on Muslims?

      9. Do you believe that the laws of your nation of residence are not equally binding on Muslims and non-Muslims?

      10. Do you believe that the sunnah of Mohammed commands that those who leave Islam must be punished? Do you agree?

      11. Mohammed taught that pagans, Christians, and Jews who did not submit should be killed. Do you agree?

      A wise man - or would that be wiseguy - said that he looked forward to a world in which there was universal peace and love because then we could attack that world and take their stuff and they'd never see it coming.

    • Comment Link Rose Saturday, 27 February 2016 05:42 posted by Rose

      The US is 10 times the size of Canada? Maybe in population....This guy needs to travel a bit...

    • Comment Link Winston Tuesday, 09 February 2016 02:29 posted by Winston

      Despite numerous warnings, this debate was converted from whether the US should accept 100,000 Syrian refuges to, hyper simplistically, whether the US should accept any refugees. Liberals successfully hijacked this debate to something it was not.

    • Comment Link Fran McHugh Sunday, 07 February 2016 08:29 posted by Fran McHugh

      I would be very interested in the political makeup of the voting audience. I was surprised at the original percentages, since national polls reflect nearly opposite views.

      The arguments on the Pro side were heavily weighted to emotion/self image and assurances that the refugees would not reflect the European experience. The only solid fact offered was the "pennies/day" cost, which was roundly refuted with the reminder that the communities receiving the refugees were saddled with the expense with no assistance from the rest of the nation.

      I was not moved.

    • Comment Link novadust Sunday, 31 January 2016 23:16 posted by novadust

      America doesn't stand for anything anymore. our cowardice trumps our conscience and our former values. the home of the brave is now the home of the craven.

    • Comment Link Michele Doremus Monday, 25 January 2016 23:20 posted by Michele Doremus

      If one American is killed by a radicalized refugee it's too many. How would we explain to the family members of the murdered that their loved one was worth the sacrifice? This is a difficult situation that in at least part is our fault. But, I could easily bet that the one American murdered would not be Dick Cheney or George Bush.

    • Comment Link Mark M Sunday, 24 January 2016 02:29 posted by Mark M

      They always do a good job with the debates but the liberal side of every argument always sways more voters. If the audience were honest with its initial vote, the ratio should be about half and half.

      It seems that liberals come to these debates with their agendas and cheat the system so that their side wins every time. It's really very depressing.

    • Comment Link Eddy Thursday, 21 January 2016 11:24 posted by Eddy

      I was also in favor of taking refugees in the US. But then a Republican relative sent me this video
      about the "Muslim invasion of Europe".

      It's very scary. A lot of Muslim don't want to live peacefully with others. Their declared aim is to conquer the world and put it under Sharia law. Their declared plan is to breed Westerners out with their much higher birth rate. Do we really want these people in our country? Is it good for humanity as a whole to let Sharia spread in the world?

    • Comment Link Carol Crunkhorn Wednesday, 20 January 2016 21:43 posted by Carol Crunkhorn

      Some suggest that Islam is the problem and that as a religion it should be banned. If so, we should ban also ban Christianity, because it too sometimes advocates violence against those who do not follow (what some prescribe as) the rules, for instance, violence against those who say a woman has the right to have an abortion. We also go to war "with God on our side" and we remove the right to die with dignity, even from those for whom religion has no meaning and for whom life has become intolerably painful.

      Perhaps it is time to ban all violent and exploitative aspects of any religion, while retaining the spiritual aspects of all religions for those who need it. I can't see that happening though and I think the next best thing is to first consider helping people according to their needs. Hopefully compassion and common sense will eventually win over all else, but that does not apply exclusively to religious tenets.

      Remember, Christianity also subjugated women; stoned and burned to death anyone who strayed from the rules; chopped off heads and limbs for the same reasons; practised slavery, incest, pedophilia and generally behaved badly, but according to God's will, apparently. It's all there, in the Bible. If isis thugs are evil, what was going on in Christendom during the last two thousand years?

      It is understandable to be protective of our culture, but should we refuse to help people who have lost everything we value for ourselves? I think we should take the chance and help these people, because whatever else we may lose, it should not be our ability to show compassion to those in need.

    • Comment Link Andy Lappin Wednesday, 20 January 2016 16:44 posted by Andy Lappin

      So much for the theory that higher education leads to better informed and better decisions. When this bubble pops there will be more than lost returns.

    • Comment Link Anna Thursday, 14 January 2016 23:34 posted by Anna

      Excellent debate - I think the audience didn't get the point about the difference between wealthy educated immigrants who could flee before the Syrian conflict and impoverished uneducated refugees stuck in a camp. Even without the distinction, humanity is willing to err on the side of generosity and compassion, even if it is to their own possible detriment. They're willing to take the chance. Even if some Syrian second generation commit violence, can it compare to the amount of gun-related deaths that already exists in America every year? Remember any crimes will come under the full weight of American law ... which is no small thing.

      It's like a family adopting an unruly teenager. It might look ugly for a few years as everyone adjusts, but the family has what it needs to make it work. God bless America.

    • Comment Link onetruth Thursday, 14 January 2016 00:06 posted by onetruth

      We are focusing on the wrong thing. Islam is the problem but no one says it. They keep qualifying it as extreme or radical and that all these other muslims 1.5 billion are peaceful. The truth is they are not following Islam or Mohammed. Most Christians do not follow Christ either,except they wont be killed for it. Islam has not been is being followed exactly by Isis and their ilk. The rest should leave Islam. It cannot be reformed either or you would have to say that Mohammed was not the messenger. So what is the reality? Ban Islam because it is a dangerous political ideology that has no place in our culture. We cannot let more muslims in or we will end up like western europe.Its too late for them

    • Comment Link jdgalt Wednesday, 13 January 2016 23:56 posted by jdgalt

      Islam is not merely a religion, but a political movement which demands to own the world. The "peace" they support means the way it will be after they rule the world; and until then they are at jihad with everyone else. Indeed, the Soviets took that definition of "peace" from Islam.

      No group like that is safe to have around. Islam needs to go through a reformation as Christianity did, and become non-militant, before it is safe to tolerate their presence here. That's hard reality and ignoring it is suicide.

    • Comment Link Ben Garrison Wednesday, 13 January 2016 21:02 posted by Ben Garrison

      Ah here comes the deluge of proven fallacies used by leftists to push the white guilt narrative and ensure that the only nations on earth absorbing millions of random immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East are white nations. But what about Turkey is the inevitable response from liberals. Turkey has its Syrian refugees placed in temporary tent cities that are miles long by wide. Since they are supposedly refugees from a war zone, when the war is over Turkey will be sending them back.

      Are we going to implement this same plan? Liberals sure do like using Turkey as an example. So will we place all Syrian refugees in temporary tent camps and then send them back? Of course not. Because it will be a white country housing these refugees, placing them in housing identical to Turkey will immediately result in accusations of racism and bigotry. The Jewish interest groups will immediately accuse people of being Nazis, and say that these tent cities are concentration camps. Of course, tent camps are fine in Turkey. To be admired even! How compassionate of them! But tents in the U.S. would immediately be compared to the Holocaust by every Jewish lobbyist and liberal in the country.

      Why are the richest Islamic countries on the planet not taking refugees? Nations far more prepared budgetarily than we are. We are 17 trillion in debt. Why is Dubai or the UAE not taking a SINGLE refugee? Jewish citizens are extremely vocal concerning their support of Syrian refugees coming into the U.S. Why is Israel not only building a wall to keep them out, but actually mass deporting North Africans? The same North Africans now raping women in Germany. Why is Israel allowed to flat out reject ALL refugees, and the U.S. is not?

      Of course, the liberals will say "we caused the damage,so we have to take them in." Really? Is the left already erasing Arab Spring from the history books? Civil war in Syria was organic, and began with ZERO intervention from the EU and US. There are ZERO US infantry in Syria engaged in battle. Every single bullet fired in Syria is fired by people from the Middle East. In first world countries, if you murder someone, you go to prison. Why are these Syrians not responsible for their choices? They CHOSE a Civil War against Assad. Their neighbors, Egypt, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, all Islamic nations who CHOSE to get involved.

      The U.S. is a gun dealer, and is open about it. In the real world, when you pick up a gun and kill someone, you face the punishment. Not the gun dealer. Muslims from all over the Middle East are massacring eachother in Syria. And yet for some reason, the U.S. must take refugees, but Saudi Arabia is exempt. And liberals refuse to even mention this. They refuse to discuss why Israel is not only building a wall to keep them out, but is actively deporting them.

      And they refuse to admit the easily proven fact that all of the rapists in Cologne were fresh immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa.

      Why is rape culture so important to discuss when the defendants are white men, but so quickly hidden when the defendants are Arab or Black?

      Liberals cannot answer these questions, and refuse to even discuss them. Years of being sheltered from actual reasonable debate have left them with zero critical thinking and no ability to argue facts. It's too bad for them that the word racist no longer works as a silencing tool. In fact, it has the opposite effect.

      When you see a liberal accuse someone of being racist, you can be assured the accused has raised a solid and logical point, and the liberal is totally unprepared to respond. Accusing people of racism allows the liberal to retreat to their safe space.

    • Comment Link Mark McKay Wednesday, 13 January 2016 20:24 posted by Mark McKay

      600,000 people in the US are living on the streets tonight.

      We can't even support those here who are already in need - how can we possibly think bringing in another 100,000 people?

    • Comment Link Ethan Herrin Wednesday, 13 January 2016 20:15 posted by Ethan Herrin

      If we are to, in any sense, stand against barbarism and islamism, defending and providing safe haven to its victims is just as important, if not more so, as conducting the war against them. We conduct the war against ISIS and the psychopaths and genocidaires that comprise it on behalf of all of humanity and all that is humane, so it follows that we have to also practice compassion and humanity as well, in particular to the victims of them, if you follow me. If any one side here rules themselves out of the argument a priori, it's got to be the people who say that we should allow Syrian families to get slaughtered when we can very easily help them, the people who sacrifice their humanity at the altar of their own baseless fears.

      I've discussed this matter enough to know the most common fallacious or false arguments against asylum, and I'll address them as follows for the sake of saving time:

      1. "These 'refugees' are all unaccompanied working-age men! They are clearly terrorists or people who don't need our help!"
      -Simply untrue. I don't know why this claim persists, all evidence lends itself to the contrary. The UN report on the matter holds that 52% of these refugees are children under the age of 18. 51.4% are female. Less than 2% are unaccompanied men, and of that small minority, the vast majority claim that they are making the dangerous trip out of Syria in the hopes of getting visas and money for their families who will make the trip when it's safer.

      2. "Look at the paris attacks and the rapes in Germany! We can't risk it!"
      -Studies show that these migrants are no more likely to commit violent crimes than native citizens. The Paris attackers were all French and Belgian nationals, not refugees.

      3. "We can't afford to provide for refugees when we have millions of homeless on the streets!"
      -This country (US) has more billionaires than the next three countries combined. Highest GDP per capita of any major nation by far. Countries far less wealthy are able to claim fewer homeless per capita and fewer people in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $2 a day) than we. Humanitarianism is a choice for us. We need to do a better job of providing for all the needy in our country, not just refugees. But that has no bearing on whether or not we should be accepting refugees.

    • Comment Link Cameron Wednesday, 13 January 2016 20:13 posted by Cameron

      We have far too many internal problems in America right now, and we do not need the added burden of 100,000 (likely far, far more over time if this gets passed) immigrants on our economy and society.
      As for the screening, while ours may be good compared to other countries', it's not perfect. Even if they don't get many through the first time, ISIS will steadily figure out how to get past our security systems as more and more immigrants come in.

    • Comment Link Uncle Jazeera Wednesday, 13 January 2016 20:00 posted by Uncle Jazeera

      Moshe Gold said: Regardless of the potential dangers, I think it is our duty to let in ALL of these refugees. I would even like to add that this number should be increased to at least 6,000,000.

      Why are you trolling America?

    Leave a comment

    Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.