In response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of Syrian civilians earlier this week, the United States launched a missile attack in Syria on Thursday. It was the first time during Syria's devastating six-year long civil war that the White House had ordered a direct attack. The U.S. military launched 59 cruise missiles at an air base, and while Assad's forces were the target, civilians were also killed, with the latest estimates at around 80 casualties. The United States' more aggressive stance against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has led some to wonder if Trump will change the Syrian refugee policy?
Under the current U.S. policy, Syrian refugees seeking to enter the country must undergo a waiting period of 120 days, as do all people trying to enter the United States under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. This policy is outlined in Trump's second executive order on travel and immigration, which is facing different legal challenges. However, for Syrian refugees, it is still a relative improvement. Under his initial executive order signed in late January, Syrian refugees were indefinitely banned from entering the United States. That was signed in January, but it was ultimately stalled by the courts.
Trump directly addressed the refugee crisis in Syria when he spoke about the missile attack in a press conference at Mar-El-Lago on Thursday night. “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically,” the president said. “As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen, and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.” He added, “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
However, many Trump critics have been quick to call out what they perceive as hypocrisy in this stance towards Assad but an unwillingness to accept more refugees.
in a column published in the New York Daily News on Friday, Chris Sommerfeldt wrote about how Trump "kept conspicuously mum when the world beheld in shock the distressing photos of Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy, washed up dead on a Turkish beach after fleeing his war-torn home country in September 2015." Instead, Sommerfeldt noted, Trump called for a "total and complete" ban on Muslims entering the United States while on the campaign trail.
Rafi Schwartz at Fusion wrote "it’s not outlandish to imagine a situation in the very near future in which more and more Syrians attempt to flee American bombs, only to be barred from American shores."
Whether and how Trump will alter the current U.S. policy towards Syrian refugees is unclear, but his critics are waiting for him to make a change.