One year ago, the Trump administration announced a highly controversial ban against refugee resettlement in the U.S. For seven months the White House declared that the most vulnerable people on our planet (refugees) – 75 percent of whom are women and children – would not find safe harbor on American soil.
As we watched the chaos unfold, and the polarizing debate rage, for many of us who were born here our own families’ immigrant stories became immediately more relevant.
There are more than 22 million registered refugees in the world today. Of those, only 1 percent are resettled to a country like the United States. These include those who helped our armed forces at the risk of their own lives, people with urgent medical concerns who cannot be treated in camps, and women and children who face the very real threat of being trafficked or forced into labor against their will.
The language of the refugee as a “risk” and “burden” to American society is deeply mistaken. Refugees are the most security vetted population that enter the United States and within months of leaving refugee camps and escaping violence and persecution, these New Americans are settling down and working throughout the United States, including right here in Tucson.
To associate refugees with terrorists, equating them with the very monsters they have fled from, is unacceptable and deeply misinformed. Our security lies not in preventing refugee resettlement, but in setting refugees up for success once they arrive, so that they are invested in society and able to fully realize the benefits of this magnificent country while nurturing the America that nurtures them.
The U.S. and Arizona refugee resettlement programs are among the most important in the world. They save countless lives and ensure that we fulfill our national humanitarian mandate: to give refuge because we believe in a basic human right to live a life free from violence and because we believe that as a privileged and principled nation we must offer shelter to the persecuted and provide for those who have lost everything due to conflict and disaster. These are the ideals that should underpin any refugee resettlement and immigration policy.
— Jeffrey A. Cornish, executive director, International Rescue Committee Tucson