3 Common Myths About Refugees

Refugees resettled into the United States are men, women and children who are seeking refuge from persecution based on race, gender, religion, political beliefs, and social standing. As the number of displaced persons continues to increase globally it is important to dispel myths about refugees and refugee resettlement in the United States.

MYTH: “The refugee resettlement process is not secure and terrorists can easily enter the country”

The most difficult way to enter the United States legally is as a refugee. No other category of traveler to the United States undergoes such a rigorous screening process.  The screening process can take a long time – up to 24 months – and involves numerous federal intelligence and security agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Fewer than 1% of all refugees are even considered for the resettlement process. Once selected, refugees undergo biographic and fingerprint security checks to confirm their identity, and are extensively interviewed by specially trained DHS officers. The procedure is designed to ensure the refugee does not have a criminal record, connections to criminal or terrorist enterprises, or information that could compromise the security of the United States. As a response to fears of terrorist activities in the Middle East, the review process for Syrian refugees has intensified and includes additional layers of security screening.

MYTH: “The United States is the only country takes in refugees. We do more than our share to help refugees.”

Historically the United States has maintained a refugee resettlement program and since 1975 has welcomed approximately three million refugees. The United States participates in refugee resettlement with twenty-eight other nations, including Canada, Australia and Norway. Each of these countries have established resettlement programs of a similar size. In regards to the volume of number of refugees resettled, today the largest refugee hosting countries in the world are those in geographical proximity to global crisis areas. Lebanon, for example, currently hosts over one million refugees caught in the Syrian conflict, which amounts to about 1 in 5 people in the host country. (In contrast the United States resettled only 85,000 refugees total in 2016.) Other close by countries who have willingly opened their borders to persecuted individuals include Turkey, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Jordan.

MYTH: “Refugees are a burden on receiving communities.”

The primary goal of any refugee resettlement agency in the United States is to help provide protection to refugees and help them become self-sufficient in their new homes. Blessed with extraordinary resilience and courage, resettled refugees quickly become self-reliant and productive members of the community. Within a relatively short period of time post-arrival most refugees manage to find a stable job, send their children to school and pay taxes. Refugees compete in the labor market on the same terms as any other American. One study of refugees living in the Cleveland, Ohio, area found that the fiscal impact of refugees was an estimated $2.7 million in tax revenue and a total economic benefit of $48 million in 2012 alone. Likewise, between 2002 and 2012 refugees started 38 businesses that employed 141 locals in the Cleveland area. In addition to contributing economically, refugees culturally enrich communities and parishes with new perspectives, histories and cultures.