Why The U.S. Should View Refugees As An Investment, Not A Burden

By Magnolia Potter

The United States is at a cultural crossroads when it comes to the perception of refugees and immigration as a whole. While those on the left generally accept and argue for the inclusion and lifting up of those who are fleeing persecution and sexual violence, the right seems bent on preventing refugees and immigrants from entering and participating in U.S. society.

Republicans and the Far-Right are intent on spreading the lie that immigrants and refugees are a drain on the U.S. and that, as a country, the U.S. would be better off refusing them entry. This is a patently false ideology that should be exposed as often and as vigorously as possible. The fact of the matter is that refugees are a huge boon to the U.S.

Immigration Boosts the Economy

Donald Trump centered his 2016 campaign around the vilification and demonization of refugees and immigrants in an attempt to stoke the fears of the uneducated white voting bloc. As he ramps up his 2020 campaign, he is sure to once again rely on this same tactic to try and retain power.

Unfortunately, factual evidence of the good that immigrants and refugees bring to the U.S. economy seems to fall on dead ears with his core supporters, despite proof that his proposed mass deportations would actually be incredibly harmful to the U.S. economy to the tune of a 1.6 trillion dollar loss in GDP. In reality, immigrants already contribute far more in tax revenue than they take from both local and federal governments, and allowing for easier paths to citizenship would actually further improve their contribution by 20%.

While it is already true that immigrants and refugees provide an economic boon in the U.S., their impact could be even greater if the U.S. acknowledged and addressed the fact that refugees and immigrants who are women face additional barriers due to structural, gendered, and societal disadvantages. When entering the labor market, refugee and immigrant women find themselves segregated into what some think of as traditionally “feminine” professions such as service industries, the restaurant industry, or even cleaning jobs. This happens regardless of whether or not the woman in question previously held a degree or prestigious certification in the country that they left.

Unlocking the true potential of refugee women by closing earning and employment gender gaps could result in an astonishing generation of $1.4 trillion in global GDP. Host countries like the U.S. could benefit greatly from refugee women if they were to offer the same opportunities that men and women living in the host country have available to them, both in terms of employment and wages. Furthermore, the U.S. should empower refugee women in additional ways that will result in even more economic prosperity, such as backing and expanding campaigns for equal opportunities in education.

Refugees and Immigrants Are True Entrepreneurs

The simple fact of the matter is that the U.S. has a long record of refugee and immigrant entrepreneurs who became some of the most innovative and influential business leaders around. Google co-founder Sergey Brin was a refugee from the Soviet Union. PayPal co-founder Max Levchin was a refugee from Ukraine. George Soros fled from communist Hungary, and Steve Jobs’ father was a Syrian refugee.

Immigrant and refugee women are now the faces of entrepreneurialism in the U.S., with iconic women, like the owner of Zenmed skincare Mandeep Shahi, building brands that are carving their places out in the world of U.S. business. Immigrant and refugee women take to entrepreneurship easily, and in 2012 nearly 45% of immigrant business owners were women. These women come from all over the world to make their dreams a reality in the U.S. and the government should work to encourage and support their actions as it is emblematic of what is considered “the American spirit”.

Starting a business in the U.S. as a non-citizen isn’t exactly an easy process to begin with. While women entrepreneurs still have to come up with an original, useful idea and prove its effectiveness in the market, non-citizens have an even more difficult time because they are required to go through many additional steps such as obtaining the correct visa and navigating a new system of laws and regulations that they might not be familiar with. Refugee women who decide to start a business in the U.S. deserve as much support as possible in order to not only realize their goals, but to add to the national culture and economy.

Avoiding Inaccurate Information

One of the biggest hurdles for refugees and immigrants coming to the U.S. is the huge amount of misinformation that is constantly spread from right-wing politicians, pundits, and supporters. It is a common misconception — or an act of willful ignorance — among the right to claim that illegal immigrants are able to receive welfare. This is false and only serves to further alienate the women, men, and children who are fleeing the countries that they once called home in search of a better life.

The idea that refugees and other immigrants are a burden to taxpayers is frankly ridiculous considering that these groups contributed $63 billion more to government revenue than they used between 2005 and 2014. Additionally, the notion that refugees are pouring into the U.S. in record numbers is another egregious falsity, as over the last decade only 648,482 refugees were admitted to the U.S., making up less than 0.1% of the U.S. population.

People who are coming in as refugees are not coming as the parasites that Donald Trump would have his base believe them to be. They are fleeing wars, sexual and gender-based violence, and in many cases ethnic genocide in their home country. Refugees want to come to the U.S. because of the opportunity that the country has historically afforded to those looking to improve their situation, and it is important to view these people as what they are: people, just like anyone else living in the U.S.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, noted author and feminist, sums up how the U.S. should approach the issue rather beautifully, stating that “…the movement of human beings on earth is not new. Human history is a history of movement and mingling. Let us remember that we are not just bones and flesh. We are emotional beings. We all share a desire to be valued, a desire to matter.”

Refugees are not a burden or a negative problem to be feared. They are just human beings trying to find a comfortable place in the world where they can feel respected and safe. To deny them this and to deny them the opportunity to actually make America great again is foolish and shortsighted.

Magnolia Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book

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