Refugees 101

Because of my experiences working with refugees, and the fact that I keep ranting with love on social media, several people have asked me questions that I thought I might best bring together in one post.

To the best of my ability, I’ve linked to neutral and/or reputable sites to back up my statements below. This is an opinion piece, but my opinions are based on years of loving and learning from refugees. If you want to know more about an issue or disagree with me on something or want to continue the discussion with links of your own, leave a comment below. I’ll probably keep adding to this post with time as new issues come up, but these are the big ones I keep hearing about.

WHY SHOULD WE SUPPORT REFUGEES?

Because there are 65+ million displaced people in the world, 51% of whom are children. The humanitarian crisis is worse than it has even been in recorded history.

(For more information, you can Google the wars in the regions where refugees are being created every day. I can’t bear to do any more of that research than I’m already doing, but it’s readily available. The BBC always has good overviews of political upheaval; their Syrian coverage is outstanding.)

BUT WHY SHOULD THE UNITED STATES RESETTLE REFUGEES?

Because our  country promised in 1948, 1951, 1980, and every year since that we would support refugees who can prove that to return to their home country means losing their basic human rights.

  • In 1948, after World War II, the United States and several other countries signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which said that all people in the world have basic human rights because we are all “members of the human family.” That core belief is the basis for refugee resettlement.
  • Three years later, the US signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, which states we will help protect people whose rights were threatened; we agreed as a country we would take in people who fit the definition of the word ‘refugee.’
  • That convention defined refugees as people who would be persecuted or killed because of their “race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.” These are people who will literally die if they go home.
  • In 1980, Congress passed a refugee act creating the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program (FRRP), which creates a permanent way to bring over refugees of “special humanitarian concern.” This should be a humanitarian issue, not a partisan one.

On the off chance that there MIGHT be one terrorist out of thousands, we are denying entry to thousands of people who have DEFINITELY lost their basic human rights in their home country under a regime which systematically targets its own citizens.

And by turning refugees away, we are breaking our national commitment.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ASYLUM-SEEKERS, ECONOMIC MIGRANTS, AND REFUGEES?

This vetting process by UNHCR and other agencies separates the refugees who are offered resettlement in the United States and other countries from asylum-seekers and economic migrants. We cannot confuse the tension about economic migration with the debate raging right now about people coming to the US through the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program.

BUT I KEEP HEARING THAT TERRORISTS ARE POURING INTO OUR COUNTRY AS REFUGEES. IS THAT TRUE?

No. Well, I guess no one can say NO for sure, and honestly, I’m a little tired of trying to pretend like we can since no one has (as far as I know) invented a Truth-O-Meter where we can tell what everyone’s intentions are. But the chances are so slim they’re laughable.

In fact, there are all kinds of figures to show how slim that chance is: Despite the fact that safety is the number one reason given by people who support Trump’s Executive Order, you’re significantly more likely to be struck by lightning, shot by a gun-wielding toddler, die by vending machine, or be killed by a lawn mower, than to be hurt by a refugee. If that’s not enough, through his racist language and blunt foreign policy against Muslims, Trump is making us more susceptible to attack by terrorists, as well as putting our troops in the Middle East at increased risk.

Also, it’s so much easier for terrorists to come over as tourists or students that no terrorist would begin to come to the US through the Syrian refugee resettlement program (This has been written about so much, I’m not even going to bother to link to every article–Google “Are refugees terrorists?” and read the first 200 articles are so, while considering your sources.)

I know I just said this a minute ago, but I’m going to say it again anyway: On the off chance that there MIGHT be one terrorist out of thousands, we are denying entry to thousands of people who have DEFINITELY lost their basic human rights in their home country under a regime which systematically targets its own citizens.

A reminder about who refugees actually are: According to figures I received from SARA, half of the Syrian refugees recently resettled in Austin have disabilities or other major health issues. And they are mostly families: 64% of the total Syrian refugees in Austin are children. They meet the US criteria for “special humanitarian concerns.”

In summary: We do not need a sledgehammer of an executive order to keep out refugees who have already met the requirements in the 2-year-long, extensive vetting process, many of whom are the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable people caught in the largest humanitarian crisis in history. 

 

 

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