There’s no clear parallel for this sort of influx in the United States. On paper, the U.S. is a giant in the refugee-acceptance business, taking in more refugees than every other country in the world combined, according to Kathleen Newland, a senior fellow and co-founder of the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute. But there’s a difference, she pointed out, between the refugees the United States resettles and the asylum-seekers arriving in Germany. In the former case, individuals are carefully vetted outside the destination country and only then resettled in that country. In the latter, people are flowing over the border—effectively presenting themselves on the ground—and then asking for state protection.
“I think [the distinction is] not widely appreciated,” said Newland. “When Germany says, ‘We’ll get 800,000 people this year,’ these are not people Germany has selected or invited in any way. These people are just turning up.” In contrast, those accepted by the United States have first been chosen on grounds of particular vulnerability or special ties to the U.S., and then additionally “have been through the most lengthy, exhaustive, laborious security screening that you can imagine,” according to Newland. “It usually takes one to two years for someone to get through that process once they’ve been referred for resettlement.” Germany, she added, is confronting a tremendous immediate challenge to provide these asylum-seekers with food, housing, and “weather-appropriate clothing.”