Why does the United States have a refugee resettlement program?

2017-10-12T16:15:15+00:00May 28th, 2017|

There are humanitarian and strategic reasons for the program, which the United States formally began in 1980. While not a stated purpose of the resettlement program, there are economic benefits to local communities that receive refugees.

Of the world’s 22.5 million refugees, 1.2 million are at extreme risk, or are seeking to join family members in other countries.  Resettlement is available only to the most at-risk refugees whose safety cannot be assured by any government or non-governmental institution.  In 2016, 72% of the refugees that came to the U.S. were women and children. Refugees are victims of rape and torture, religious persecution, terror, and political oppression. Resettled refugees also include those whose lives are at risk because they served the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Resettlement is also a diplomatic strategy of the U.S. government.  By welcoming refugees, we help U.S. allies.  For example, in Jordan, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, one out of every six residents is a refugee.  If the U.S. refuses to do is fair share, other countries may shutter refugee camps, causing more instability and turmoil throughout the world. Safe haven for those who support U.S. officials abroad is also critical to the safety of U.S. overseas personnel and the success of our foreign missions.

Economically, many areas of the U.S., particularly New England, need workers in all fields. Refugees work in all fields, including law enforcement, they pay taxes, purchase homes and start business. Like nearly all newcomers to the U.S., they are eager to work and contribute to the economy. A recent study showed that over a 20-year period, refugees who enter the country between the ages of 18 and 45 pay on average $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in public benefits.

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