On Thanksgiving, think of the refugee children

Story highlights

  • Caryl Stern: When I think about the Syrian refugees, I think of the children who are the most vulnerable
  • On this Thanksgiving, remember that children don't choose the countries they're born into or the conflicts around them

Caryl M. Stern is president and CEO of U.S. Fund for UNICEF. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Thanksgiving is usually the time I try to figure out how to cook the best turkey, make great pumpkin pies and figure out how many more people -- that friend of a friend -- I can add to the already-full table.

But, this year, on one of America's most beloved holidays, my thoughts are filled with images of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Beirut that left 173 dead. These attacks are searing reminders of the global insecurity and conflict that surround us.
Given this tragic reality, it's a wonder that we're debating about admitting Syrian refugees to our country. Americans are asking: "Why should we stick with the U.S. government's plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016? Why risk our own safety for strangers?"
    Caryl M. Stern
    Some have responded to these fears by calling for refugees to be selected for asylum on the basis of their religion. Others have advocated that we reject all Syrian refugees regardless of their faith.
    While it's necessary to keep America safe, these responses are terribly wrong. Worse, they miss some very important facts we should all keep in mind as Thanksgiving approaches -- with its warm call to gather with our families and include others we may not know.
    Editorials, letters to Congress and social media posts from Americans across the country have rightly pointed out that discriminating against refugees because of their religion or country of origin is deeply un-American. Many have noted the rigorous, multiyear screening process refugees must go through before they can cross our borders, including extensive vetting by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, among other agencies.