Refugees have gotten a bad rap recently, especially after President Trump signed an executive order barring Syrian refugees from entering the United States until further notice, justifying his actions by saying it was “to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States.” He even called the refugees “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
Far from being detrimental, refugees have actually contributed to society in positive ways. However, most people tend to believe ridiculous lies about these asylum seekers, such as the following.
1. Refugees come to take advantage of U.S. benefits.
People are not granted asylum in the U.S. because of economic hardship. The definition of “refugee” according to the 1951 Refugee Convention is a person who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
2. They are lazy.
Most refugees maintain an impressive work ethic. The proof is in the numbers: 11% of Syrian immigrants are business owners, compared to 3% of U.S citizens. Even more impressive is the fact that 40% of America’s Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children.
3. They’re uneducated.
Many refugees are highly educated citizens who would not have left their home country if they had not been forced to do so because of dangerous circumstances. In fact, 27% of Syrians who enter the US have advanced degrees. For US-born people, that number is only 10% to 13%.
4. They’re poor and they are looking for handouts.
Before you jump to conclusions and assume that refugees latch onto the welfare system or end up as beggars, check out the facts: The median annual wage for immigrants in the United States is $36,000, which is not too far behind the $45,000 median wage of those born in the U.S. For Syrian immigrants, however, that number is actually even higher: $52,000.
5. They are criminals.
You might think that asylum seekers drive crime rates up, but, in reality, the very opposite is happening: refugees are bringing crime rates down. Research has proven that they commit fewer crimes on average than US citizens.
Incredibly, the average rates for murder, robbery, burglary and larceny have actually decreased as immigration increased in American metropolitan areas.
6. They are poorly vetted.
Seeking asylum in the U.S. is a long, complicated process that can take around 18 to 24 months to complete. First, a person must go through the United Nations’ screening process, which requires extensive background information, interviews, and even iris scans. Less than 1 percent of those who apply pass to the next step. If they do make it, they’ll have to face stringent U.S. Security checks from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Counterterrorism Center, among others. “Of all the different ways to enter this country as an immigrant, doing so as a refugee is probably the most cumbersome and time-consuming,” said Jeh Johnson, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, in an interview with 60 minutes.
7. They are disguised ISIS fighters.
This assumption is ridiculous for so many reasons. Trump even propagated the idea to gain support for his giant border wall, tweeting out, “Eight Syrians were just caught on the southern border trying to get into the U.S. ISIS maybe? I told you so. WE NEED A BIG & BEAUTIFUL WALL!” The Syrians he was referring to were not “caught” while sneaking in, and they were not terrorists. They were two families with children who presented themselves at the US border seeking asylum. Of the 784,000 refugees who have settled in the US between 2001 and 2015, only 3 were arrested on suspicion of being connected to terrorists, although NONE were planning any attacks on US soil.
8. All refugees are Muslims.
While a large percentage of those seeking asylum may in fact be muslim, according the Pew Research Center, 46% of all refugees who entered the U.S. from 2002 to 2016 were Christians, while 32% were Muslim. And while Syria may be highlighted in recent news, the majority of refugees admitted during the past decade were actually from Myanmar.
9. Refugees will take over America eventually.
Here are the facts: since 1980, only 3 million refugees have been accepted into the United States. That’s not even 1% of the population— hardly enough for a takeover.
10. Most refugees are dangerous young men.
Not at all. 67 percent of Syrians who have sought refuge in the U.S. are women and children. Most young men who are admitted want to get jobs, or even create jobs. “I can’t wait to launch my own company and hire people and just go on TV and say, ‘Here’s a refugee who’s hiring Americans and creating jobs,’” Yasir Dhannoon, a refugee from Iraq, told Global Citizen.
Refugees are not who you might think they are. Listen to some of their stories here: