UO Students Rally To Support Refugees

More than four million Syrians are fleeing civil war.

Photo by: Mohammed Alkhadher / mohammedalkhadher.com
Photo by: Mohammed Alkhadher / mohammedalkhadher.com

Students at UO rallied Nov. 30 in response to the backlash aimed at Syrian refugees. More than four million Syrians, three-quarters of them women and children according to the U.N., are fleeing civil war in that country.

In the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130, at least 24 U.S. governors have said they would refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to resettle refugees, citing security concerns. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown was not one of them.

The group of about 100 to 150 people demonstrated on the lawn across from the Lillis Business Complex, then marched through campus to 13th and Agate, before doubling back to sign a petition in support of increasing the amount of refugees the state accepts.

Elizabeth Vargas, a senior majoring in political science and journalism, organized the rally and proposed a petition to increase the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. from 10,000 to 65,000 within the next year.

“We wanted it to be a show of solidarity,” Vargas said of the event, adding, “we are very fortunate to live in a community where it’s not as much of a protest, because our representatives are accepting refugees.”

Vargas says she hopes the rally inspires someone to organize in a state where there’s more opposition to the refugees, “They’re going to make so much more of an impact.”

The COP21 UN climate talks continued in Paris, despite the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks two weeks earlier, but climate rallies there were shut down by the government, citing security concerns. A 2015 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences linked the 2007-2010 drought in Syria as contributing to the conflict that led people to flee that country.

Vargas pointed out not all of our state’s elected representatives support Syrian refugees. But Sen. Ron Wyden is opposed to an anti-refugee bill, and in a press release about the House passing the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act he said,“Our country must ensure the refugee screening process is as strong as possible and protects all Americans.” He adds, “Our American tradition has always allowed refugees, like my parents, to come to this country and contribute to the greatest and freest nation on earth.”

HR 4038 proposes to only accept refugees once the FBI is able to certify to the Department of Human Services and the Director of National Intelligence that the asylum seeker is not a threat to national security; and DHS must then certify, with the unanimous agreement of the FBI and DNI, that the asylum seeker is not a threat.

“If one person reads about this and feels a little bit safer or a little bit more welcomed,” Vargas said of the rally, “that’s going to mean the world to me.”

This story has been updated. Sen. Ron Wyden opposes HR 4038.