Today is World Refugee Day: Let’s welcome them
Whether you’re overwhelmed, appalled or in full support of President Trump’s methods to stem illegal immigration into the U.S. –currently in full play on the U.S.-Mexico border– the reality is that migrants, refugees, immigrants, people shifting from one country to another for economic, political, ecological or safety reasons isn’t going to go away.
Today is World Refugee Day, and recent studies show that whether you build a wall, accept only the highly-skilled and educated, or skew for some singular trait, there is going to be more, not less movement of people looking to adopt a new homeland around the globe.
Whether categorized as refugees, migrants, immigrants or asylum seekers, there are 22 million people looking to start over and adopt a new land.
Sometimes, we Americans enthusiastically welcome strangers who want to become fellow citizens, sometimes not so much, and, occasionally, we hold both views at the same time.
Too often, though our positions are based on perceptions rather than facts, a sense that the newcomers may be getting away with something our ancestors — or we, couldn’t; that they’re more criminally inclined, untrustworthy or just will generally not blend in– positions fueled by rumors, obscure incidents, prejudices, political agendas and incomplete data.
Yet, most academic examinations of refugees show they are an overwhelmingly positive influence wherever they are allowed to settle down.
A new report, Let’s Recast the Economic Discussion on Refugees based on Sound Science by Hartwig de Haen and Richard Seifman concludes that migrants, immigrants and refugees are actually more entrepreneurial than their host country nationals. Their taxes and social security payments exceed transfer payments made to them, and their presence reinvigorates small towns, bringing new life and new clients to old local businesses as well as providing labor to the agricultural and service industries.
At the moment, the U.S. seems to be in an ambivalent stage about immigrants, with the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services earlier this year excising “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement, the Supreme Court ruling that immigrants in detention aren’t entitled to bail hearings and the high court skirting involvement with DACA, the Deferred Action for
Yet Texas, where immigration and the rule of law is being hotly debated, is “putting out a welcome mat” for new immigrants, according to the Dallas News.
Last year, Dallas set up the Office of Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs with the sole purpose of helping immigrants and refugees thrive in the U.S., offering citizenship outreach Some might think the heartland, which Trump swept through with his anti-immigrant aim, would be the homeland of anti-immigrant sentiment, but then there is the St. Louis’s Mosaic Project. Originally called the Immigration & Innovation Initiative, when it began in 2013, this collaboration of St. Louis business and political leaders is focusing on immigration to remedy the region’s stagnant population and economic growth.
Does it mean there won’t be conflicts and misunderstandings? Not at all. Our anti-immigrant bias is as American, well, America.
Afterall, one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, opposed those “swarthy” German immigrants, grousing, “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion.”
Karen DeWitt has a long distinguished career as a journalist, covering politics, but also has worked on political campaigns. She compares the later to the labor of a Hebrew working for the Pharaoh. She’s covered the White House and the national politics for The New York Times; foreign affairs and the White House for USA TODAY before joining that newspaper’s management as an assistant managing editor. She switched to television as a senior producer for ABC’s Nightline, where she wrote and produced the award-winning, Found Voices about the digitization of 1930s and 1940s interviews with former slaves. She returned to newspapers, as Washington editor for the Examiner newspaper and eventually left to help on local political campaigns. She has several blogs, but contributes mostly to a food blog called “I don’t speak cuisine” at peacecorpsworldwide.org and theroot.com.