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News // Inside Look

10 Reasons Why America Needs Refugees

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LIRS Staff

August 13, 2020

As the White House weighs how many refugees to allow into the United States, LIRS warns of the consequences of decreasing the refugee ceiling at a time of unprecedented global need.

Aside from the fundamental moral responsibility we have to welcome refugees during the worst global displacement crisis in history, there are a lot of practical, political, and economic reasons why America needs to open its doors to refugees.

1. Refugees create things we rely on.

The next time you search for something online or use a Google app, think about what would have happened if we had refused to welcome co-founder of Google and refugee Sergey Brin.

Are you a gamer? Or maybe you’re a foodie who loves Sriracha…You can thank U.S. refugee resettlement for welcoming Ralph Baer, who is credited with inventing video games, and David Tran who was the taste-bud genius behind Sriracha.

2. Offering refuge is part of our history.

From the first individuals who fled to America seeking religious freedom to the words that are printed on the statue of liberty today, our reputation as a land of refuge for the persecuted is something that defines America.

Closing our doors to refugees would reflect flagrant disregard for this legacy and for American principles.

3. Refugees prop up our economy.

In 2015, refugees documented in this report earned a collective $77.2 billion in household income.

They also contributed $20.9 billion in taxes. That left them with $56.3 billion in disposable income, or spending power, to use at U.S. businesses.

4. Cultural diversity is what makes America dynamic.

Refugees are inextricably woven into the fabric of American culture.

From musical icons like Regina Spektor to intellectual giant Albert Einstein, refugees have been a crucial part of our cultural narrative.

Closing our doors to refugees would stifle our vibrant national identity.

5. Refugees go on to be leaders.

Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger are perhaps the most famous U.S. leaders with a refugee background, but today, refugees continue to do amazing things for their communities as local leaders and representatives in Congress.

In fact, Wilmot Collins, former board member of LIRS, was recently featured on the Daily Show after being elected the first black Mayor of Helena, Montana.

6. America is aging out of the workforce.

According to a report by PEW Research, the number of working-age adults – from the Baby Boomer generation – is projected to decline by 8.2 million workers over the next several decades. Contributing to this, in addition to the loss of Baby Boomers in the workforce, is the decline in birth rates in the U.S. since the 1970s.

The vast majority of U.S. refugees are of working age, offering a vital boost to an America society that is quickly aging out of the workforce.

7. American values are at stake.

Our immigrant roots have served as the moral backbone of America, fostering a society that has welcomed diversity in our communities and honored differences of both faith and culture.

In fact, in a letter to a Dutch Colleague our very own George Washington was quoted as saying: “I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable Asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”

8. Refugees fill crucial gaps in the job market.

In their first few years in the U.S., refugees are quick to fill gaps in the labor market in industries that are struggling to find workers.

On the flip side, refugees boast an unprecedented rate of entrepreneurship and as a result, actually generate jobs in many sectors. In fact recent reports show that refugees create jobs – at a rate 30 percent higher than U.S.-born citizens.

9. Our Western peers are watching.

The United States currently takes in less than half of 1 percent of the world’s refugees.

Compared with our Western neighbors, the United States is resettling significantly fewer refugees as it correlates to our economic and infrastructural capacity. And this fact has implications on our foreign relations with allied countries like Turkey, that bear the brunt of the refugee displacement crisis.

10. The stakes are high, but history can guide us.

In 1939, when LIRS was first founded, the United States turned away more than 900 Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany because of worries that some might be Nazi conspirators or Communists. More than a quarter of those refugees died in the Holocaust.

Today, fear of terrorism is similarly being used to justify shutting our doors to refugees – and the stakes are equally high. But the threat simply isn’t there.

To learn more about refugee resettlement, check out our FAQs on the Refugee Ceiling.

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