Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Those of us who attend the University of Maryland are privileged in many ways. We are able to, in some way, afford a college education, which opens up many opportunities for our future careers. Part of the privilege of being a college student is that we study on a campus that has many resources available to us. Imagine if we could use these resources not only for the benefit of ourselves but also to ensure the well-being of others.
This possibility may soon be a reality thanks to a petition advocating for this university to house refugees on its campus. The petition, which was recently endorsed by the Student Government Association, aims to ally the university with the Every Campus a Refuge program, which urges college campuses to provide temporary housing for refugees and help them transition into their new lives. At this university, the petition seeks to provide English classes and assistance from Campus Pantry to a refugee family. Campus resources would be used to help the refugees get back on their feet and prepare them for a safer, more stable future.
While this university strives to be an inclusive campus, some students have refused to sign the petition out of fear of the dangers that housing refugees might entail.
Unfortunately, there are many common misconceptions about refugees, stemming from questions about who they are, why they’re leaving their countries and how they would become productive members of our society. One of the biggest fears people tend to have is that giving refuge to these displaced people might open the door for terrorists to enter the country. That fear is simply misguided. The people this petition seeks to house are running away from violence or persecution and are not threats themselves.
Refugees must go through a rigorous screening process to enter the United States, and organizations like the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center all perform strict security checks. Moreover, more than half of the world’s refugees are children. Many of these kids have been exposed to the atrocities of war at a very young age and seeking refuge in countries like the United States is usually their only way of survival.
Refugees are not leaving their home countries because they want to — they’re leaving because they have to. Most students at this university have been fortunate enough to never experience the horrors that innocent civilians in places like Syria, Myanmar and Somalia have suffered through.
So when we have the tools to help those in crisis, why are many standing idly by? Aiding these displaced people while they acclimate to a new culture and society is our duty as fellow human beings. It is paramount that this university enact this petition soon, because the longer we wait the more time is wasted that could be used to help innocent people.
Asha Kodan is a sophomore biology major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.