What happens when countries increase refugee resettlement?
The current U.S. presidential administration recently announced that the refugee ceiling for the 2022 federal fiscal year (which began on October 1, 2021, and will continue through September 30, 2022) will be 125,000. Reaching this number will be difficult. Policy changes from the former presidential administration and the ongoing pandemic are complex challenges. However, we can still expect that the U.S. will be accepting many more refugees in the next 12 months… and welcoming an increasing number of refugees may make Americans wonder: how does refugee resettlement impact the communities that receive new arrivals?
At World Relief, we believe that our Christian faith calls us to welcome and love our immigrant and refugee neighbors – regardless of any benefits that they might bring to us. However, we know that the increase of refugees might bring up questions or concerns, so here’s what happens when a country like the United States resettles more refugees.
1. Entrepreneurship grows as refugees and immigrants found new businesses
What is the quality that so many MBAs say makes a good entrepreneur? So often, the quality is the ability to tolerate risk! Starting a new business is risky and can be very scary – especially if you are taking out a loan, spending your life savings, or starting a new partnership! With that in mind, it’s not surprising that refugees are incredibly entrepreneurial and have the highest entrepreneurship rates along both the U.S.-born and foreign-born populations! Refugees are forced to exercise adaptability, innovation, and resilience often – think about the risk of leaving your home to start a life in a new country.
Refugees are so entrepreneurial that in 2015, 181,000 refugee entrepreneurs generated $4.6 billion in business income, providing all kinds of tangible benefits to Americans! New businesses are also responsible for a big chunk of new job creation, so by becoming entrepreneurs, refugees benefit the job sector in amazing ways that impact everyone for the better!
2. Businesses gain employees to fill in labor gaps
Did you know that the foreign-born population (immigrants and refugees) works at a higher rate than the native-born population (people who were born in the U.S. or are native U.S. citizens)? It’s true! In fact, the refugee population coming to the U.S. tends to be of working age (25-64 years old) and has a higher employment rate! The data shows that refugees who come to the U.S. get to work – and rather than taking jobs from native-born workers, they fill important positions in sectors that have a high need for labor!
3. Receiving communities gain new perspectives as refugees bring skills and insights
Don’t you love meeting someone who brings a whole different perspective and list of skills and experiences to the conversation? Refugees often speak multiple languages, have professional qualifications and skills, and know life in more than one culture. That makes them a huge asset to the workplaces they join and important contributors to community life! Refugee resettlement can bring new ideas, customs, cuisine, art, and poetry.
4. Cities come back to life
Refugees have the power to bring dying cities back to life! Past success stories show how refugee resettlement in a city can bring new vibrancy, economic life, and culture to cities experiencing economic slowdowns and declining populations. In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 7,000 Vietnamese families changed an entire neighborhood for the better. In Utica, New York, refugee families are 25% of the population. There, the county’s executive officer says that they have “renovated and revitalized whole neighborhoods.” In Cleveland, Ohio, a 2012 study showed that refugees from Bhutan, Ukraine, Burma, and Somalia created new jobs and boosted the Cleveland economy by $48 million. Over just one year, refugee-owned businesses directly brought $7.6 million in economic activity to Cleveland.
“[T]he refugees have renovated and revitalized whole neighborhoods.”Anthony Picente, Jr., Oneida County’s Executive Officer
And this can be so much more than a short-term solution for these cities! Not only do refugee arrivals boost the population and bring new development, but the impact continues well into the future! Refugees are magnets. Their thriving communities attract friends and family who join in transforming the neighborhood for good! These new arrivals buy homes, start businesses, raise children, and get involved in the neighborhood. And by doing that, they create a need for jobs, bring new vibrancy, and boost the economy.
5. Economies flourish
To make a long story short – refugees help their new economies to flourish! Over and over again, there have been reports showing that refugees are positive contributors to the U.S. economy. Though there are educational and resettlement costs to welcoming new refugee arrivals, they are far surpassed by the benefits!
A report in 2017 found that refugees contributed $63 billion more than they cost between 2005 and 2014. Specifically, refugees brought $41 billion in net fiscal benefits to the federal government and $22 billion to state and local governments. That is after you take out the costs of $35.9 billion that were largely due to education! And second-generation Americans – including the children of refugees—go on to have higher incomes, educations, and rates of homeownership than their parents. Refugee resettlement reaps rewards for future generations!
Refugee Resettlement: A Unique Calling and Opportunity
The global crisis of displaced people is worse than ever. The good news is that the U.S. has a unique opportunity to respond by accepting more refugee arrivals this year.
World Relief provides the services that refugees need. But you have the opportunity to help refugees rebuild their lives. You can make a life-long impact when you act out of love and compassion to love your refugee neighbor.
We don’t welcome refugees because of the benefits they bring to us. Our faith calls us to “welcome the stranger.”
And yet, the evidence shows that the communities that do welcome refugees are often richly blessed in return. In other words, refugee resettlement is a win-win!