America was founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; however, this is not how many Americans are approaching the topic of refugees. Failing to integrate foreigners that are living in our community is bad for our economy and the development of our community as a whole.
So what makes someone a refugee? A refugee is defined as someone that is forced to leave their country by either war, or religious and political persecution. Refugees are families that have been displaced from their homes by an immediate threat of violence. These individuals often spend years living in refugee camps that leave much to the imagination. These camps are often overcrowded and barely have the capacity to meet even basic needs. If an individual is lucky enough to even qualify for refugee status to enter into America, they face a long and rigorous process. This process of background checks and interviews usually takes more than two years, and many consider it one of the hardest avenues for a nonresident to enter into America.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, America has resettled 784,000 refugees within its borders. Since this time, not a single refugee has carried out a domestic act of terrorism. In fact, most of the refugees entering into the United States are women, children and the elderly. Forty percent of the refugees entering our country are younger than 12.
Refugees migrating to America is not a new phenomenon. The United States first enacted refugee legislation in 1948, as means to admit 400,000 displaced Europeans. Many of these refugees were fleeing communist regimes such as Hungary and Korea, and later Fidel Castro’s Cuba. In 1980 America passed an act to standardize all resettlement services for refugees in response to resettling hundreds of thousands of Indochinese citizens. Since that time, America has resettled over three million refugees.
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Operating out of fear when it comes to refugees and immigrants can be damaging to Idaho’s economy. We need not look any farther than our neighbor Pocatello to see the negative impact discrimination and intolerance can have on our economies. Because of the recent charges of discrimination toward foreign students at Idaho State University, leaders of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are telling their students not to come to Idaho. These incidents make Idaho look bad to other states and other countries. Not receiving foreign students would not only have a negative impact on our local economies, but also create a less diverse learning experience for our university students.
America is too great of a country to operate out of fear. America did not become the greatest country on Earth by building walls and pointing blame. We need to embrace diversity and create opportunity for every individual in this community. Our communities do best when we celebrate diversity and tolerance.
Andy Jenott grew up in Boise. He is a graduate student at Boise State University in the field of social work and works in the medical field.