Photo by Jedidiah Smith
Just saying publicly that your organization works to help refugees is polarizing these days. BGR recently published its annual “Impact” report and gave as one stat that we helped over 100,000 refugees last year. We celebrate these numbers (and wish it were more) but some supporters have voiced concern of working with refugees. Ironically, when we let them know that all of these refugees helped by BGR are overseas, they seem to relax. The fear seems to center around refugees, potentially “bad” ones, coming here to the United States.
So, do we need to be afraid of those coming into our country, seeking refuge? Here are some myths and facts about refugees in the USA (drawn from the book Seeking Refuge – cited at the end of this blog):
Myth – Refugees are a drain to the economy.
Fact – Research on issues of immigration generally shows that immigrants have a net positive economic impact on the country that receives them. Not only do businesses benefit but wages of US-born workers increase due to the fact that immigrants tend to work in fields that complement rather than compete with their jobs.
Myth – Terrorists will enter our country via the refugee resettlement process.
Fact – This is possible but highly unlikely. History shows that most acts of terrorism in western, developed countries occurs either by the hands of their own citizens or by foreigners entering by much easier means such as a tourist, student, etc. In truth the United States government does a thorough job of screening and vetting those refugees/immigrants chosen for resettlement. On the average, it takes 18 months to 3 years of processing before a refugee ever reaches the USA. This involves actual determination and verification of their refugee status, security clearance processes, US Homeland Security screening, in person interviews, reference checks, medical screening, etc. Terrorists who are bent on attacking targets in the USA have many other easier options and ways to gain access to our country.
Myth – We are taking too many and we are taking in too many non-Christians.
Fact – Over the past 10 years, we have averaged around 60,000-70,000 refugees admitted into the US each year. This is less than 0.1% of all the world’s refugees. The top country of origin for refugees during this time period has been Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia. More than 70 percent of those coming out of Myanmar have been persecuted Christians. In the same time period, only about 27% of the refugees admitted were from the Middle East. It’s important to note that almost 50% of refugees admitted to the US in the past 10 years have been Christian background. About 30% have been Muslim and this number has been growing due to the Syrian crisis. The rest (20%) are made up of Buddhists, Hindus, Jewish, and other faiths (or “no” faith).
Summing it all up, it is the task of our government to safeguard our citizenry by providing tried and true methods of vetting all immigrants coming into our country. But it is the task of the church, the body of Christ, to welcome the stranger, orphan, widow in our neighborhoods and communities.
For a great summary of the current refugee crisis and where I gleaned some of the information above, I would encourage you to read the book, Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir.