US presidential hopeful Austin Petersen talks Syrian refugees with The Loop

Published December 7th, 2015 - 08:44 GMT
You may not have heard of him, but Austin Petersen's views on Syrian refugees have recently garnered more attention. (Facebook)
You may not have heard of him, but Austin Petersen's views on Syrian refugees have recently garnered more attention. (Facebook)

With Democrat and Republican candidates taking up all the headlines, it’s unlikely many people have heard of Austin Petersen. But the 34-year-old third-party hopeful is making a run for the Libertarian Party nomination.

In the 2012 US Presidential Election, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson stood little chance of presidential victory with around 1.2 million votes, but many believe third party voices are an absolute necessity in a two party arena.

Petersen has seen a similar trajectory—even fewer people had probably heard of the latest Libertarian candidate before the Paris attacks.

But as questions about Syrian refugees and national security raised in the wake sparked serious debate, his was a voice that stood out from the norm coming from both sides of the aisle.

“We saw politicians ever since the Paris attack start proposing legislation which is anti-liberty and which to me seems dubious in its ability to maintain the security of the American citizens,” he told The Loop.

Following the attacks in November, governors from over half of US states began proclaiming shut-door policies regarding refugees. Elsewhere, Islamophobic sentiment soared. Petersen saw it as a knee-jerk reaction.

“I’m not the kind of person to jump at every single tragedy and start going back on the values that I hold," he said. “If the neo-conservatives are right, and the terrorists truly hate us for our freedoms, then isn’t restricting our freedoms essentially caving to the terrorists demands?”

Peterson’s platform says US taxpayers should not pay for refugees, but should be allowed to privately sponsor them, a stance he says diverges from that of both Democrats and Republicans.

“Conservatives’ viewpoint on Syrian refugees is that they don’t want them so they should be banned," he said. “When it comes to liberalism, their philosophy is that it’s good to bring in refugees, so the United States taxpayer must pay for it—I’d say they’re both wrong.”

Instead, individual refugees would be the responsibility of private citizens sponsoring them.

“If you were to sponsor a refugee then you would be responsible for that refugee, meaning that if that refugee disappears [...] or if they were to commit an act of terrorism for example then there could be some lawsuit or liability on the person who sponsored them.”

This is already how family reunification or marriage asylum works—after becoming a US citizen, an individual can apply for visas for family or spouses. But the large-scale sponsorship Petersen’s advocating is not sanctioned by US immigration policies so far.

While his chances remain slim, many would argue that these third-party voices are important to US politics as they represent those unable to identify with the two major players. Especially after the latest attack in San Bernardino, this debate about refugees and security is just one example of many.


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