In a gross display of political opportunism, some politicians seized on the tragedy in Orlando to launch new attacks on America’s long tradition of offering refuge to families fleeing persecution abroad. This kind of loose talk should be named for what it is: weak and un-American.
A new report reminds us that many refugees embody the best of the American heritage. Roughly 3 million refugees currently live in the United States, and most manage to integrate into the American family. The report’s authors, David Dyssegaard Kallick and Silva Mathema, show that within a decade of arrival, refugees are nearly as likely as their US-born neighbors to have a job, open a business, speak English, and own a home. Given the linguistic, cultural, financial, and other challenges that complicate integration, it is remarkable how quickly many refugees integrate into their new communities.
In spite of the fact that none of the recent mass-shooters were refugees, a surprising number of politicians assert that refugees pose a threat. Claiming that we don’t know anything about people trying to enter the United States as refugees is disingenuous at best. The Refugee Resettlement Program entails a vetting process more extensive than most avenues for entering the United States.
Initial screening is really just the start of the resettlement process. Thankfully, most refugees are not dropped off in a strange land and asked to fend for themselves. Over the last 70 years, the United States has built a network of non-profit organizations, congregations, governmental agencies, and good neighbors that help refugees to get started in their new home. For most of that time, support for refugee resettlement has been broad and bipartisan. This is the legacy of generosity and service that the anti-refugee set would have us abandon in favor of fear and innuendo.
There are times when the majority can’t afford to remain silent. It is time to remind the world (and our elected leaders) that the United States will continue to fight for human rights and offer safe harbor for some of those who are persecuted, displaced, and simply trying to survive.