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Refugees: An Asset Not a Liability

Written by Anaisa Arora, a grade 9 student.

It is no revelation that xenophobia has risen over the last decade. The sentiment has most definitely spread outside of the White House, with Americans’ chants to “build a wall” being the first of many that come to mind…

By I Kid You Not , in Opinion (U/A 7+) , at November 22, 2021 Tags: , , ,

Written by Anaisa Arora, a grade 9 student.

It is no revelation that xenophobia has risen over the last decade. The sentiment has most definitely spread outside of the White House, with Americans’ chants to “build a wall” being the first of many that come to mind. From the rapid dismantling of the asylum system to the ramping up of deportations and immigration raids by the Trump administration, this line of thought is undoubtedly widespread.

The most conspicuous grounds for the animosity of immigrants and refugees cited by nativism are crime, poverty, security, and illness; however, the denigrations do not cease there. Nativists blame immigrants for seizing local employment and raising tax rates, asserting that they will never be “authentic” Americans, conveniently ignoring the reality that the United States is a nation full of immigrants 

In light of recent events in Afghanistan, this xenophobic mentality is in desperate need of reform, and this article presents an entirely fresh outlook on why refugees should sincerely be accepted, welcomed and embraced with open arms.

Beginning with the basics: who are refugees? 

The 1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as someone unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin because of a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, affiliation within a specific social group, or political opinion. Refugees come from all strata of life, and many of them now dwell in the United States, fleeing everything from war and violence to starvation, poverty, and climate change. By 2019, over 26 million refugees had been registered globally, out of over 82 million individuals who had been unjustly forced to relocate.

Refugee admission in recent times in the United States

In a nutshell, the president confers with Congress to establish an annual overall aim for refugee admissions. According to the legislation, this bar must be justified by humanitarian concern or otherwise in national interest. The action of establishing the refugee admissions ceiling is known as the Presidential Determination, and it is issued before the start of the next fiscal year on October 1. Before 2016, the average annual ceiling surpassed 95,000, as established by the Refugee Act of 1980. Notable presidents from both political parties have taken the liberty of raising the bar even higher: President Reagan’s highest bar was 140,000, while President Obama’s was set to 110,000. However, while in power, the Trump administration set a paltry 15,000 refugee objective for 2021, the lowest amount since the establishment of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program in 1980. The administration set the Presidential Determination at a record low for the fourth consecutive year. Fortunately, President Biden issued an Emergency Revised Presidential Determination raising the objective for the fiscal year 2021 to 62,500. Biden’s decision is founded on the elimination of biassed admission categories established by past administrations that targeted immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, particularly those from Islamic nations.

Why it is so crucial to welcome refugees

Individuals and families are fleeing their home nations at an unprecedented rate. In 2019, an average of 24,000 individuals were forced to abandon their homes each day. One percent of the world’s population is forcefully displaced. As these battles rage on, depriving the local population of resources and shelter, it becomes extremely critical to welcome them. 

An economic perspective 

Now, let us address a different perspective, as to why refugees can aid us as well, through economic means. According to Vox, refugees can assist in “reversing depopulation trends that undermine the financial viability of the region” in tiny towns or fading cities. In Rwanda, refugees who got $120 to $126 in cash aid from the UN raised yearly real income in the economy by $205 to $253. according to the United States, after 6 years in the nation, these refugees work at greater rates than natives.[Researchers] estimate that over their first 20 years in the United States, refugees pay $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

As enterprises begin to expand in these cities, workers and industries clustering in the same region spur economic growth and the size of a qualified labour pool, these densely populated areas have an “outsized effect” on the American economy: demand for goods and services transitions toward these areas. Cities, on the other hand, decline when the qualified working population begins to depart. A dwindling population, fewer taxes (resulting in diminishing public services), increased unemployment, and reduced demand for products and services render these cities less appealing to new entrants.

Refugee resettlement is pivotal to addressing this issue, and so are place-based visas (also known as “heartland visas”), which would allow immigrants to reside in locations faced with the repercussions of demographic stagnation and in dire need of fresh recruits. These visas would not restrict where immigrants may visit or travel; rather, they would merely demand that their home and place of work be someplace inside designated geography. Such visas have proven to be quite successful in Canada and Australia!

Not only would embracing migrants enhance our cultural heterogeneity and promote ideals of liberty and opportunity, but it would also benefit the nation economically by regenerating the cities. 

It is about time to stop alluding to refugees as liabilities and instead embrace them with open arms.

“We have a legal and moral obligation to protect people fleeing bombs, bullets, and tyrants, and throughout history, those people have enriched our society.” Juliet Stevenson

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