With Thanksgiving Day behind us and the holiday season just ahead, we have much to be thankful for here in Southwest Florida.
The housing market has stabilized - is, in fact, on the way back up -jobs are to be had and, if prosperity has not returned for all of us, we can see better times ahead.
For millions across the war-torn Mid East, the common things that middle American has come to expect are non-existent.
In Syria alone, 12 million people have been forced from their homes due to civil war and unrest.
Half are children.
Of these 12 million unsettled Syrians, 4.2 million have filed for refugee status.
Most have fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan - all "Muslim countries" - with an estimated 700,000 trying this year to reach asylum in the EU.
More than 3,000 of them have died, most nameless, most faceless to the international community which continues to debate their fate.
But not all.
Three-year-old Alan Kurdi, who died with his 5-year-old brother Galip, and his mom Rehan, broke humanity's collective heart when his body washed up on a beach in Turkey, still dressed in his little red T-shirt and blue shorts, a pair of dark sneakers on his feet.
His father Abdullah had hoped to find refuge in Greece and then immigrate to Canada where an aunt had relocated some 20 years ago.
The family had had its application turned down once, but they had hope.
They had hope.
As the refugee/no refugees debate continues, let us not forget that the issue is not just one of policy, it has a face.
And its face is that of Alan and brother Galip, all smiles for the camera in a family snapshot; and little Alan, all alone, face down in the sand, in a photo that captured a crisis in a single frame.
There has been a great deal of political rhetoric on the issue. Here are some facts to consider as Gov. Rick Scott and others on the state and federal level tout "no Syrians" policies:
- The bulk of the 4.2 million Syrian refugees have taken refuge in neighboring countries with Muslim majorities. Iraq also falls within the top four.
- European countries are next, with an estimated 850,000. The 28-country EU received 437,384 asylum applications in the first six months of this year alone, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council. The EU countries receiving the most applications are Germany followed by Hungary, Sweden, Italy and France. The most popular path is the one Alan's family attempted to follow - Turkey to Greece and then, hopefully to a country of choice. Borders are tightening in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris. Arguments in the EU include many of the same anti-refugee points made here: The danger of infiltration, problems with assimilation, sheer numbers, and costs.
- According to news accounts Tuesday, despite post-Paris debates, Canada has agreed with take in 25,000 Syrian refugees next year. Unless changed again, the admittance policy will be for families and for women or children, but not, for security reasons, unaccompanied males. Screening processes, which resulted in the rejection of the Kurdis' application due to paperwork issues, will remain in place.
- The Obama Administration is proposing to admit up to 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. That would be among the up to 185,000 total refugees - "a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a 'well-founded fear of persecution' due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin" - from countries worldwide next year.
In 2014, the U.S. accepted 69,986 refugees. They were relocated among 46 states with Florida accepting 3,519, the fifth greatest number. Broken down by country, Florida accepted 10 from Afghanistan; 1 from Bhutan; 376 from Burma; 4, Burundi; 54, Colombia; 8, Congo; 2,177, Cuba; 155, Dem. Rep. Congo; 2, Ecuador; 36, Eritrea; 27 Ethiopia; 4, Hati; 30, Iran; 425, Iraq; 4, Ivory Coast; 3, Pakistan; 6, Jordan; 1, Libya; 1, Nigeria; 3, Pakistan; 6, Palestine; 7, Russia; 75, Somalia; 3, Sri Lanka; 89, Sudan; 6, Syria; 4, Ukraine and 5, Vietnam.
Nationwide, one-third of all refugee arrivals (35.1 percent, or 24,579) in 2015 came from the Near East/South Asia-a region that includes Iraq, Iran, Bhutan, and Afghanistan, according to the American Immigration Council.
Another third of all refugee arrivals (32.1 percent, or 22,472) came from Africa.
More than a quarter of all refugee arrivals (26.4 percent, or 18,469) came from East Asia - a region that includes China, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
- "The Refugee Admissions Program is jointly administered by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) in the Department of State, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and offices within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within DHS conducts refugee interviews and determines individual eligibility for refugee status in the United States," according to the American Immigration Council.
The vetting process currently takes 18-24 months for admission to the U.S., according to the Department of State.
To those opposing ANY Syrian refugees, we have a couple of suggestions.
One, take a look at the current list above and tell us why immigrants from Syrian fall into a no admission category while some others do not.
Two, tell us how the current screening policies are problematic and how they should be stepped up. For the record we have no issue with a stringent vetting process to protect national security. That is appropriate no matter country of origin.
Three, spend a moment looking again at the on-line at the photo of 3-year-old Alan. Now imagine he is your little boy with nowhere to go based solely on the crazies in his country.
Because, to our own country's detriment, we have too many of them here as well.
And there, by the grace of God, go we.