Today we are living through one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time. Over 65 million people are displaced around the world due to conflict, famine, or drought. Of these, 21 million are refugees that have fled their countries. Over half of them are children. How to respond to this crisis is the challenge of our lifetime.
During this particularly vicious election cycle, you’ve probably seen a lot of back and forth about refugees in the United States. Much of it has included misinformation and fear mongering. Do you know what’s going on, really?
We’re here to dispel the top three pieces of misinformation about how America is responding to the global refugee crisis.
Myth #1: America is already taking in enough refugees
According the Migration Policy Institute, the United States has admitted close to 750,000 refugees since 9/11. In fiscal year 2016, the country admitted 85,000 refugees total through the resettlement program. While these numbers seem large, let’s put them into context. With over 21 million refugees in need last year, America’s contribution to refugee resettlement served only 0.4 percent of the total.
America has long been a harbor for those seeking refuge (those tired, poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free—sound familiar?) yet our nation and its western allies have fallen short in resettling some of the most vulnerable refugees in the current crisis.
The United States settled over 12,00 Syrian refugees this year, representing only seven percent of its fair share. Meanwhile, key allies in the Middle East like Jordan, Turkey, and Pakistan are taking in huge numbers of refugees, straining their infrastructures and destabilizing an already tumultuous region.
The reality of the situation is that the United States is doing far from its fair share. Only ten nations host 76 percent of the worlds refugees, and America is not even close to being on that list.
Myth #2: Refugees don’t assimilate into American communities
One of the most often-repeated claims about refugees in America is that their religion, culture, or national origin prevents them from successfully integrating into society. But after decades of welcoming refugees, the results are in. In communities across America refugees are largely model citizens, and have even revitalized small town America. They have endeavored to learn English, hold jobs, start businesses, contribute to charities, enroll their children in public school, serve in the military, and even run for public office.
Myth #3: We can’t properly vet refugees
Perhaps the most alarming thing you’ve heard about refugees is that we have no way of conducting adequate security screenings on them. “We don’t know who these people are” is the mantra of anti-refugee politicians and pundits, who are especially opposed to admitting refugees from Middle Eastern countries like Syria. We’ve saved this myth for last, not only because of its patent falsehood, but also due to its viral repetition from those who seek to drum up outrage for political advantage.
Not only can we vet refugees, our national security experts do it successfully every single day. For the refugees lucky enough to be referred to the United States, a painstakingly thorough process awaits. While living in temporary camps overseas, refugees undergo a slew of background checks, biometric screenings, and personal interviews, which are all checked and rechecked as new information about a potential candidate arrives.
The State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the National Counterterrorism Center all contribute to the process that our military leadership and national security experts from both Democratic and Republican administrations call “thorough and robust,” safeguarding the American people while also extending the country’s hand to the refugees in greatest need. If you want to learn more about the vetting process, check out the White House’s infographic here and the Department of Homeland Security’s video here.
By Joe Jenkins
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