Why American People Are Scared of Syrian Refugees.
Tough to overcome this kind of wired in psychology.
So why the hysteria? While there are plenty of nativists in the country, nativism is not the whole story. Most Americans are not nativists—the country has welcomed millions of refugees and other immigrants. The explanation for the public’s reaction lies elsewhere.
Overreaction to tiny but frightening risks is not a new problem. Americans fear flying much more than driving, even though flying is much safer. Yet the fear of flying has led to massive—probably excessive—public investment in airplane safety while investment in auto safety has languished. Other famous public overreactions, described by Cass Sunstein and Richard Zeckhauser in a recent paper, include the reaction to Love Canal (no evidence of adverse effects), the pesticide Alar (risk of cancer extremely unlikely), shark attacks (hardly ever happen), and the anthrax attack in 2001 (five deaths). Genetically modified organisms and vaccines also terrify some people, despite abundant evidence that both are safe. People vastly overestimate the risk to health and safety of particular threats, leading the government to squander resources eliminating tiny risks while the significant threats (heart disease, car accidents) go unaddressed.
Psychologists who have studied these reactions have identified a number of factors that predict when people place excessive weight on a low risk. All of these factors point, with remarkable clarity, to the reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Unfortunately, once people get it into their heads that someone or something poses a big risk to them and their families, it’s hard to do anything about it. The public is famously unresponsive to the simple math and cost-benefit balancing of the sort supplied by Nowrasteh. When the government supplies reassurances in the form of evidence and expert testimony, people are more likely to disbelieve the evidence and the experts than to change their minds, and this further erodes trust in government. And if a refugee does engage in terrorism, President Obama and the Democratic Party will almost certainly pay a high price. Obama has taken the high road—and there is much to admire in his position. But unless he can find a way to calm public fears, the refugees are in trouble.
Refugees undergo several rounds of security clearance checks. Their names, biographical information and fingerprints are run through databases coordinated by the FBI, the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.
For Syrian refugees, there’s one additional step. Their filings with the UN and initial documents submitted to the U.S. program are reviewed. Information about where they came from, what caused them to flee and what their experiences were like are cross-referenced with classified and unclassified information.
According to Buzzfeed, Syrian refugees are also being vetted through a secret national security screening program. The program, the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Process, is specifically used to screen people deemed potential national security threats.