International Policy Digest

S.Phelps/UNHCR
World News /05 Dec 2019
12.05.19

Addressing the Refugee Crisis

Refugees flee war and political violence. Their numbers are at the highest level since the Second World War II – over 70 million forcibly displaced, over 25 million registered with the UN as refugees. Because they fear persecution, refugees reach out to other countries for resettlement. The U.S. can play a critical role in addressing this crisis by admitting more refugees.

Historically, the U.S. refugee resettlement program constitutes one of the world’s most successful humanitarian programs. At a time when forced displacement is at record levels, the U.S. should model solidarity with refugees. The U.S. should implement leadership in global refugee protection efforts.

Unfortunately, the admission of refugees into the United States has fallen to record low levels. This year’s refugee ceiling number is only 18,000. Reducing the refugee ceiling puts families, women and children’s lives at risk. The U.S. is failing vulnerable people. The United States should follow its past policy of welcoming refugees and increase its ceiling to 110,000.

Welcoming refugees strengthens U.S. credibility and creates a positive global image. The United States shows its commitment to its international obligations. The world is so interconnected today; the U.S. should set an example to participate in efforts to maintain peace and protect human rights, to create a more stable world less prone to war. Raising the refugee ceiling gives America a sense of strength, renewal, and inspiration.

Welcoming refugees enhances our relationship with our allies. By increasing the refugee ceiling, the U.S. will improve relations with NATO allies such as Turkey that bear the brunt of the refugee displacement crisis. U.S. leadership will encourage other countries to contribute more to this global refugee crisis.

Welcoming refugees reflects observance of human rights. The United States upholds its promise to vulnerable and marginalized peoples. It also responds with compassion and respect to the people who arrive at its borders. Every human has the right to freedom from torture, inhumane and degrading treatment. Every human has the right to life, liberty, and security. Every human has the right to seek asylum in other countries from persecution.

Some perceive that refugees pose security threats. The United States has a vigorous vetting system that keeps the country safe and keeps the resettlement program successful. The Department of Homeland Security is the primary agency in charge of investigating all the refugee applications. This agency bars entry to anyone who might harm the country. Every refugee applicant is vetted first by the UN, and then by multiple U.S. security, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies. The vetting process is thorough and takes approximately 18-24 months.

Initially, refugees cost the taxpayer by accessing public benefits. However, the early employment program contributes to refugees’ self-sufficiency within six months. Refugees pay on average $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in government benefits over a 20-year period. Additionally, refugees have gone on to become CEOs, ambassadors, and influential economic and cultural figures in the United States. They include George Soros, Madeleine Albright, Sergey Brin, and Albert Einstein.

This country was built on the immigrant community’s hard work. We opened our hearts and doors to refugees fleeing violence, oppression, and corruption. America needs to increase its refugee admission ceiling to 110,000 to alleviate the current global humanitarian crisis. We need to ask ourselves: What kind of world do we desire to live in? It is every human’s right to seek life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If we prioritize empathy over hate, tolerance over prejudice, inclusion over omission, then we will have a better world.