Frequently Asked Questions
We have enough problems in our own country. Why help people who don't live here? Why so much focus on refugees when we have enough homeless, needy in our own communities?
It is proven time and again that there is plenty of compassion and concern to go around. Communities coming together to support the homeless or to welcome refugees is a reflection of the values that define us a Americans and people of good will. Many of those involved in welcoming refugees also volunteer for soup kitchens, contribute to programs for the homeless and routinely get involved in ongoing and pop-up community service projects.
We are spreading goodwill and making a difference in the lives of victims of war who have been displaced and torn from homes and families through no fault of their own.
Volunteers helping refugee families start new lives report that their own lives, communities and families have been enhanced as a result.
How do we know it is safe? Who does the background checks?
The U.S. vetting process of refugees is the most rigorous screening process in the world. It often takes several years to complete because the safety and security of the American people is always the top priority.
For the safety of everyone, all refugee newcomers are screened by the appropriate federal authorities. By definition, refugees are people and families who are here because they face a threat to their safety in their former homes. As a result, refugees are far more likely to have experienced the trauma of violence, political unrest and terrorism than the average American. They know personally the horrors of these situations, and are coming here to escape them, not perpetuate them.
A refugee and his/her family must first decide that they wish to permanently resettle and integrate into a new country and culture. (Note that the vast majority of refugees do not choose to resettle, waiting instead to return home when conditions there improve.) Refugees then apply to the United Nations, which works with the U.S. and other nations to select and assign them to a given country. Once a refugee family is assigned to the U.S., the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State and the Department of Defense investigate the family. The refugees are fingerprinted and their identities are verified through a myriad of biometrics. They are subjected to various background checks, including checking for prior political or criminal activity. (More details at uscis.gov.)
Before coming to the U.S., refugees participate in Cultural Orientation (CO) overseas. Medical exams are conducted to make sure they carry no communicable diseases and to determine what level of U.S. health care needs they will have. The women, children, and men invited to become Americans don't get a free ride. They take out loans to pay their airfare to the U.S. They arrive legally, fully documented, with many skills but often without English and without much money. They appreciate the things we often take for granted: Freedom, Security, Opportunities.
For more information and statistics on refugee admissions to the United States, visit wrapsnet.org.
We are happy to welcome some refugees, but we can't be overwhelmed. How many exactly are coming?
Many American cities have been losing population as jobs move overseas and urban centers lose their appeal. Newcomers have been key to revitalizing urban areas, sprucing up houses and neighborhoods, launching and supporting small businesses and improving schools. In general, areas that have welcomed new Americans have seen their fortunes rise and opportunities expand. Local economies are not "zero sum games" where one pie has to be sliced up for everyone. Newcomers help make a bigger pie for all of us to get a piece of!
There are people in our communities already without jobs, how can we accommodate these newcomers?
Welcoming cities have seen their economies boom for all residents. Newcomers are job creators in our communities. Immigrants and refugees are very entrepreneurial, and in 2011 immigrants started 28% of new businesses even though they are only 13% of the population. These businesses employ all kinds of folks, and refugees are also customers for existing local businesses. An infusion of new talent and resources can be just what a struggling job market needs.
Why are you helping people get on welfare? How long until they can stand on their own feet without any help?
We are helping struggling families move, get shelter and meet their basic needs. There are services available for them that recognize the challenges that past traumas and relocation may create. The good news is that our new neighbors share our desire for self-reliance and independence, and use this support to enter our communities and start working as quickly as they can. How quickly depends on a lot of factors, like it does for anyone who is starting fresh in a new place, but our help jump starts the process and accelerates their acclimation and increases the likelihood they will be successful.
My son's class is almost 50% ESL learners now. They get more attention than American children.
If any students in any school aren't getting the attention and instruction they need to succeed, that is a problem for all of us. The future of our country depends on educating all of our children. Refugee families share our concerns about our school system and we want to work together to make sure that all kids get the education they deserve.
Why is America always responsible for cleaning up every other country's problems? (in reference to foreign policy/civil war/genocide/etc). Why aren't you helping Americans instead? Why should this be our problem?
America was founded on these values: that all men and women are created equal and that all people have rights no matter what they look like or where they come from. So how we treat refugees reflects our commitment to the values that define us as Americans.
We believe that families should stick together, that we should look out for each other, and that hard work should be rewarded. Because its how you live your life and what you do that defines you here in this country.
Refugees that come here embody these American values. They have defied all odds to leave behind discrimination, threats and even violence. Bringing a family here to build a better, safer life, is a quintessentially American thing to do.
Refugees are not interacting with us. They are not friendly and they don't fit in. Also they aren't learning English. I am not a racist, but is it really good to resettle people in an environment so different than where they came from/where no one looks like them?
It's hard to move – to pack up everything and go to a new place takes courage—but you do it in order to put food on the table, to provide for your family or send your kids to a decent school. It can be even harder for refugees, who may not have been able to plan ahead or prepare.
But despite these challenges, refugees can and do make homes and deep ties in their new communities. And in our experience, the more welcoming their new communities are, the better and faster newcomers feel part of their new home, learning languages and customs as well as adding richness to the local communities with some of the sights, sounds and flavors of their previous home.