Coming to America
Right now, all around the world, millions of people are fleeing violence and war, risking their lives to find a safe place to call home. In 2016, the United States allowed almost 85,000 refugees to enter our country. That’s the most we’ve admitted since 1999. (Don't celebrate our generosity too quickly, though. Consider that Turkey, for example, has admitted 2.5 million and Germany, the leader among Western countries, has 600,000.)
We’re proud that our little home state, Vermont, regularly ranks near the top of the charts when it comes to number of refugees resettled per capita. But even here, despite a broadly welcoming and supportive public, despite an acknowledgement of how much immigrants have contributed to Vermont society, refugees are still the subject of much debate.
Today we want to focus on something that isn’t contentious: the fact that refugees make our state and country stronger.
Top 5 Reasons We Should Welcome More Refugees
1. Diversity Benefits Society
There are just over 625,000 people living in Vermont, and most of them are white. But our population is starting to become more diverse, and that’s a very good thing. It’s essentially now a fact across the country: diversity makes us smarter, more creative, and harder-working. And while difficult challenges - like overcoming systemic racism - persist, diverse societies tend to thrive, economically and culturally.
2. Multicultural Classrooms Help All Students Succeed
It’s possible to speak broadly of the good diversity does for a society, but it’s important also to look at specifics, particularly the educational system. Research has shown that children who attend diverse schools have big advantages navigating both our increasingly multicultural society and the job market. Although many school districts remain segregated, the benefits of diversity in the classroom are clear.
3. Refugees Stabilize Aging Populations
Countries all over the world are facing a dilemma. Their populations, just like Vermont’s, are getting increasingly older, meaning that at some point in the not too distant future, the number of retirees will equal or surpass the number of workers. This becomes problematic because retirees aren’t working essential jobs our society needs, and they tend to stimulate the economy less. The only reason that this isn’t as huge a problem in the US as it is elsewhere? Immigration. If we slam the door on refugees and migrants, then we won’t be able to take care of the elderly or grow our economy.
4. Immigration Boosts Our Economy
Speaking of the economy… many studies have shown that refugees can be a big boost to a country’s employment numbers and GDP. Upon arrival, refugees have backgrounds in everything from medicine to farming to chemical engineering. And even when they take lower-level service jobs, it doesn’t typically take long for them to start dreaming big. Today there are new immigrant-driven businesses opening all over Vermont, adding millions of dollars every year to the economy. Across the US, of course, the positive impact of refugees and immigrants is even larger. Not only that, research tells us that diverse workplaces have numerous economic benefits.
5. It’s the Right Thing to Do
We are a nation of immigrants. Over the years, we’ve welcomed millions of people from all over the world to our shores and into our communities. They have made our country great. And perhaps nothing symbolizes our commitment to, and our reliance on, immigrants more than the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.
Many of us know at least some of the words to the poem “The New Colossus” that’s engraved on a plaque inside the monument’s pedestal. You know, the stuff about the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,” the poem ends. “I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
But today we’re wondering, has the torch been extinguished? Is the door closed?
Stand with us to ensure that the light blazes on and the door remains always open.