US Religious Leaders Agree: Let the Syrian Refugees Come

By: Contributor - Nov 20, 2015, 10:25 am
Rejecting Syrian refugees runs contrary to American values and traditions.
Rejecting Syrian refugees runs contrary to American values and traditions. (ANNUR)

By David Clement

Religious leaders in the United States are in agreement that the country should not halt its Syrian refugee admissions program after the terrorist attacks in Paris. Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and interfaith leaders have remained steadfast in their support for those fleeing persecution and violence, and have become increasingly vocal in the past week as lawmakers debate halting the program.

These religious leaders are entirely correct in supporting refugees. The United States must continue resettling Syrians. Not only is it the just and compassionate way to respond to this humanitarian crisis, but scapegoating refugees does nothing to make the country safer.

Following the Paris attacks, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement calling for Syrian refugee resettlement. Bishop Eusebio Elizonda, chairman of the organization’s Committee on Migration wrote: “We must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive.”

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, wrote: “We are horrified and heartbroken by the terrorist atrocities in Paris, but must not forget that there are thousands more victims of these same terrorists who are fleeing Syria with their families and desperately need someplace to go.”

The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that works to protect civil rights for Jews and other minorities, reproached the US governors who want to stop Syrians from settling in their states, saying: “This country must not give into fear or bias by turning its back on our nation’s fundamental commitment to refugee protection and human rights.”

Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC, said: “We must not forget our values as a Jewish people. We have been a people in exile and were wandering for millennia. Justice for those who are homeless overrides other factors.”

Refugee Council USA assembled a coalition of more than 80 groups, including religious ones, to call upon Congress to accept Syrians.

But many are rejecting the religious, humanitarian, and moral arguments for accepting refugees, citing substantial terrorism threats. Are the fears over refugee terrorists even valid? According to the Niskanen Center’s David Bier, the record says no,

Since 1980, when the current refugee program was created, the United States has welcomed more than 3 million refugees from more than 70 nations. The total includes hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees who are now proud Americans — including more than 100,000 from Iraq since 2004.

Overall, the United States has taken in over 750,000 refugees since 9/11. Despite the large number admitted, less than a dozen refugees have been arrested for terrorism-related activity, and no refugee has successfully carried out a terrorist attack in the United States in that time. While there is always a risk, the record shows the United States is capable of resettling refugees while ensuring safety.

But let’s assume that refugees had indeed carried out a terrorist attack. The United States should still resettle large numbers of Syrians.

First, there are humanitarian obligations to those fleeing persecution.

Second, would Americans really trade closing the borders on the scores of Irish, Italian, German, Soviet, and other immigrants who arrived in the 19th and 20th century because there were some criminals or terrorists among them? The compassionate integration of millions of new immigrants made the United States the country that it is today.

It is also important to remember that, during World War II, Jewish refugees were turned away due to the fear of Nazi spies. They had to return to Europe, where many would perish. One would hope that this mistake is not repeated.

And third, the risk of terrorism is incredibly low. Even if you include the failed attackers, just 0.0002 percent of refugees since 1980 turned out to be terrorists. Some may argue the risk is multiplied because one terrorist could kill hundreds of people at once. However, the chance of that happening is still exceedingly rare compared to the much higher probability that you will be killed by homegrown terrorists or mass shootings.

Finally, the suggestion that the United States will create a religious test for refugees is abhorrent. Religious freedom is a cornerstone of the American ideal. Pope Francis confirms what many believe: refugees are God’s children too. Let’s welcome them with open arms.

As Syrians continue to be subject to horrors unimaginable by most, lawmakers are woefully discussing ways to keep them out. This backwards thinking runs contrary to American values and traditions.

Americans should heed the calls from religious leaders and accept Syrian refugees, who are fleeing persecution just as their ancestors did, coming to the United States with the promise of building a life of freedom and peace.

David Clement is an entrepreneur and political consultant based out of Oakville, Ontario. David is also the political analyst for the popular electoral app Follow @ClementLiberty.

How Much Are US Dollars Really Worth In Argentina?

By: Contributor - Nov 20, 2015, 9:11 am

EspañolBy Carlos Alberto Salguero Argentineans face growing uncertainty about the US dollar exchange rate as election day approaches. The Central Bank has depleted its reserves, which suggests that the Argentinean currency could suffer a strong devaluation. The new administration will then be forced to face the music and admit that, unavoidably, the foreign-exchange controls have to go. Exchange rates fluctuate all the time, because the scenarios that give rise to those fluctuations also change incessantly. Every incident has an impact, but we should focus on big events. Experience tells us that prices change every day, and one would expect that people take that phenomenon into account. But a contradictory notion of price rigidity has given rise to common misconceptions about production, consumption, and trade. Today, many who have suffered the consequences of price oscillations object to free-market price mechanisms and proclaim that "naturally stable" prices are fairer. It's easy to understand why. But price controls, euphemistically called "protected prices" in Argentina, are already in place and have left many troubled companies without liquidity and, in certain cases, bankrupt. As economist Ludwig von Mises stated, refuting the notion that price controls are beneficial is important not only to the economy but to political decision-making. The disastrous measures in political economy that prevail today are, in large part, due to the failure to address that mistake. In Argentina, the free rate came to an end in November 2011, when President Cristina Kirchner enacted the foreign-exchange controls to allegedly prevent a devaluation that would impoverish Argentineans. The national government literally fixed a maximum price in the foreign-exchange market and began forbidding any transactions not carried out according to the official price. If it had established a maximum price equal or similar to the market's equilibrium price, the economic effects would have been limited to the system's administrative costs. [adrotate group="8"] But when the state tries to give the national currency a value that is superior to its market value, Gresham's law comes into effect. Scarcity of foreign currency necessarily occurs, because the demand for dollars exceeds supply at the official price, which is fixed arbitrarily. On November 13, the official exchange rate stood at AR$9.59 for every US dollar, which was 2 percent lower than real value in 2001. It did not reflect an equilibrium, not even in the short term. The Central Bank's international reserves decreased from a record-high US$52.6 billion in 2011 to the current sum of US$26.3 billion — a 50 percent plunge. Now, if the actual level of foreign-exchange reserves are compared to the monetary base or high-powered money, which on October 30 amounted to AR$543 billion, according to the Central Bank, one finds a debt service coverage ratio that sets a rate of AR$20.63 per dollar. Without dwelling on the legitimacy of the assets registered on the Central Bank's balance sheet, one does find US$11.8 billion in swaps (Chinese yuan), US$8 billion in unpaid imports with commercial debt delays, and unauthorized dividends payments made abroad during the last four years. All of which adds problems to the Central Bank and its debt service coverage ratio. Between both extremes there appear black-market dollars — also called blue, parallel, marginal, or illegal dollars — which are no more than the natural response to official controls. Beyond the derogatory names which the government assigns to black-market dollars, their circulation simply reflect Argentineans' real need to operate under free-market conditions. To this one might add an additional risk premium that applies to informal transactions. All in all, the total amounts to AR$15.27 per US dollar. It's a fact that a significant portion of the sum assigned to savings, US$1.2 billion sold to individuals since October at a rate of AR$11.50 per dollar (AR$9.59 plus an additional 20 percent), were immediately converted to pesos since they came to the front of the line in the informal market. There, they were sold at AR$14.90 per dollar, a trick yielding an immediate gain of 29.47 percent. The government's maneuver to contain marginal parity below its debt service coverage ratio is onerous at best. Presumably, this explains the sale of 12 million futures contracts, each valued at US$1,000, in an act which ought to have legal consequences. On the other hand, assigning a dollar value of AR$14.46, taking liquidation into account, is a means to legally acquire dollars abroad or to buy Argentinean pesos from another country. Shares or government bonds in the Argentinean market are bought from abroad. Thereafter, the bond is sold abroad at its Argentinean peso value, and the buyer deposits the determined amount in a foreign bank account. At the same time, this allows dollars to enter Argentina. When there are more people wanting to leave than those wanting to enter the country, the price of the dollar, taking liquidation into account, naturally increases. But if the opposite is the case, dollars decrease in price. In this case, the Central Bank's reserves are not affected, since transactions are carried out among individuals. Margins, however, are smaller in spite of brokerage fees. With its inflationary measures, the government has clearly reduced the Argentinean peso's purchasing power compared to the dollar. It has also affected goods and services in general. Its intentions are finally exposed by its decision not to interfere in foreign exchanges in order to end the dollar scarcity. In that way, whoever wants to buy foreign currency can do so under market conditions. Carlos Alberto Salguero is a professor at the University of La Plata, in Argentina. He holds a PhD in economics and a master's degree in business administration from ESEADE, Buenos Aires.

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