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IRC report: Nearly 60 percent of Americans believe the U.S. has a moral obligation to help refugees

Despite support among Americans, Administration policies have led to steep 70% drop in U.S. refugee admissions

Today, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) released a major report titled, (Un)welcome: the state of refugee resettlement in America. The report includes an analysis of the Administration’s refugee resettlement policy and its impact on vulnerable populations, including religious minorities, and persecuted populations globally; as well as its impact on businesses and local communities. It also includes the results of an IRC-commissioned poll, surveying those from the United States, for a better understanding of Americans’ views on refugees and the country’s role in assisting the most vulnerable.

The report follows newly updated figures on global displacement, which have reached an all-time high of 68.5 million and a humanitarian crisis unfolding at the U.S. border. 

A refugee policy that hurts refugees, Americans on Main Street, and allies abroad

  • A steep 70% drop in refugee admissions has left thousands of refugees in limbo, although nearly 60% of Americans believe the U.S. has a moral obligation to help refugees.
  • Three out of four Americans recognize the extensive cross-agency nature of security vetting for refugees. The evidence speaks for itself: Not a single resettled refugee has committed a lethal attack on U.S. soil since the modern resettlement program was established in 1980.  
  • Two-thirds of Americans recognize resettled refugees contribute a great deal to this country through the sharing of their talents, skills, cultures and customs. Yet, reduced arrivals are already impacting Main Street, where business owners whom the IRC works with are struggling to fill jobs typically fit for refugees.
  • The slowdown in resettlement jeopardizes U.S. national security interests while creating an added burden for key U.S. allies. 76% of Americans believe the refugee crisis is an important national and global issue.

“The Administration is leaving behind the most vulnerable,” said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “No one is spared—not Christians and other religious minorities, not those fleeing brutal terrorist regimes, and not even those who assisted U.S. troops in their missions abroad. Meanwhile, the evidence is insurmountable—refugees bring opportunity, culture and dynamism to the communities they resettle in. Despite the body of proof of the benefits refugees bring to the American economy and society-at-large, the Administration is implementing policies that both deny safe-haven and a better life to the world’s most vulnerable—and negatively impact American prosperity moving forward.”   

A steep drop in U.S. refugee admissions

If there was a conflict in America forcing residents to flee their homes, two-thirds (67%) of Americans would expect Canada or Mexico to welcome them. Despite this belief among Americans, the Administration’s new resettlement policies have ground the admission of refugees to a halt.

Nationally, in the first seven months of FY18, refugee arrivals have dropped 70% compared to the same period last year: from 42,414 to 12,189 refugees. No religious group or minority has been spared: The slowdown has resulted in a 60% drop in Christian refugee arrivals, including targeted Christian minorities from countries like Iraq; an 80% drop in Muslim refugee arrivals, the group suffering the highest casualties from terrorists; and a 99% drop in arrivals of Yazidi, a brutally persecuted minority. Just 44 Syrians refugees have been admitted this year, fewer than were killed in the chemical gas attack in April.  

At home, Main Street is feeling the impact of reduced arrivals

In contrast to myths, U.S. government-commissioned research shows that refugees have generated $63 billion in net revenue over the past decade. Moreover, resettled refugees ages 18 to 45 pay on average $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over a 20-year period and are around 30% more likely to be entrepreneurs than the U.S.-born population. Employers report that hiring refugees increases company efficiency, improves management practices, widens applicant pools and brings down turnover rates.

IRC offices across the country have noted adverse consequences for local communities, and employers in particular, resulting from the stark drop in refugee admissions:

  • The decline in refugee arrivals has left many employers with jobs they are unable to fill with American workers. In FY17, the IRC’s workforce programs helped clients find employment with more than 1,700 employers nationwide. But now, the IRC is unable to help employers fill critical jobs in metropolitan areas including but not limited to Dallas, Denver, New York, Northern California, Seattle, Richmond, Charlottesville and Phoenix.
  • Over 60% of Americans believe that the private sector, including U.S. corporations, should play a prominent role in aiding refugees to integrate into our communities. Employers in key U.S. industries—including manufacturing, hospitality and meatpacking—rely on refugees to fill jobs at a time when demographic decline and job growth has generated labor shortages. In contrast to the aging U.S.-born population, of which only 49.7% is working-age, an estimated 77.1% of refugees are working-age.

“Everyone thinks that it’s the refugees that need us,” said Craig Kind, director of rooms, The Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa, CA. “This is a misconception because, truly, it’s us who need the refugees. They are passionate and dedicated to do their part to serve our guests, and in the hospitality industry, this is what we need.”

In Dallas, an IRC employment partner is struggling to fill nearly 200 jobs that would have been filled by newly arrived refugees. The IRC’s Seattle office receives frequent calls from employers looking for job-seekers, yet there aren’t enough refugees to meet the demand: A recruiter in the local hospitality and service industry described the shortage of applicants as “desperate.”

The consequences of reduced resettlement extend beyond America’s borders

New policies and bureaucratic red tape are stalling processing, leaving refugees in limbo and jeopardizing U.S. strategic interests. In 2016, developing and middle-income countries generously hosted more than 84% of the world’s refugees, while the six wealthiest nations hosted fewer than 9%. The U.S. slowdown in resettlement has exacerbated burdens on refugee-hosting countries, abandoning not only the world’s most vulnerable populations but also important allies, like Jordan and Kenya.

About the poll

The findings throughout this report are from a poll conducted May 15-16, 2018. For the survey, a sample of 1,005 adults ages 18 and over from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii were interviewed online, in English. The precision of this online poll is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of ±3.5 percentage points for all respondents surveyed.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 27 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.