Do Refugees Cost Too Much?


Many Americans believe that refugees take jobs away from citizens who need them and take resources away from disadvantaged Americans.

Is that true?

I started to google “do refugees take our jobs?” and when I entered “do refugees…” the following commonly searched for prompts were suggested: Do refugees get free housing? Receive government housing? Get free college?

In other words, do refugees cost too much?

Google do refugees

The answers to those questions are no, no and no. There is a cost to resettling refugees, of course, and they do receive some financial assistance, but when they have left a hostile situation, probably spent many years in a refugee camp, and arrived in a completely new environment without understanding the language and having little or no money, they need some help to become integrated and self sufficient.

However, they receive less than you might think. World Relief has years of experience resettling refugees, and its staff and volunteers assist wide eyed refugees with an apartment and its necessities, English lessons, help with social security cards, health care, school registration, and jobs. How would refugees manage without services like those?

We are a wealthy country. Of course, some people in the US are struggling financially while others have more money than they can spend in their lifetimes, but even people who are barely able to cover their expenses have no idea what refugees have dealt with.

Imagine living in a refugee camp, with limited access to work, food, and money for years. If you are one of the lucky ones, you might have a chance to be relocated to a safe country and given a chance to earn a fair wage, to live in freedom, and for your children to receive an education. If we think we understand what that is like, we’re kidding ourselves.

Refugees often start out in low paying “starter” jobs, but they are happy to have them and they work hard. They learn how to budget, pay their taxes, and purchase necessary items. Having an income is a new experience for some refugees, and after living in refugee camps for years, it is often a lost skill.

You’ve no doubt heard pro refugee arguments, like the following quote in reference to  undocumented workers. The same applies to refugees.

…many of the jobs occupied by undocumented workers in the United States are physically demanding jobs that Americans do not want, such as gutting fish or work on farm fields.  

The job market is strong right now, and businesses are looking for ready and willing workers. Ironically, some manufacturing plants may have to consider moving because they can’t hire enough workers where they are. Refugees could help.

According to FAIR, Federation for American Immigration Reform, which I gather is not in favor of refugees, the cost of resettling refugees to taxpayers is $1.8 billion each year. That sounds like a lot of money. It is a lot of money. But for a little perspective consider that according to Money Magazine, Americans spend $40 billion a year on coffee and an article from Wild Birds Unlimited reports that we spend $5 billion on bird seed

Money is always an issue, and we shouldn’t take in more refugees than we can afford to, but to reduce human lives to dollars and cents, to evaluate their worth as a cost benefit analysis, is to devalue all human life. There is far more to an individual than can be evaluated in financial terms. Refugees are people with skills, hopes, and desires that have been, at best, underdeveloped, if not squashed.

I believe it’s short sighted to limit the number of refugees entering the US today, for in 10 or 20 years, when their children become working adults, I predict this country will wish there were more of them. Those children are coming of age watching their parents struggle, sacrifice, and often go without so that they will have opportunities that are out of reach for their parents.

Ultimately, refugees serve the American economy by filling needed jobs, paying taxes and raising motivated workers. Yes, there is a cost, but they do not receive free housing or college and over time I believe they contribute more than they cost. Even if they don’t, they are people who need an opportunity to live in freedom and to contribute their gifts to a society.

Personally, I think refugees are worth it.

Do you?

Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Posted in Current Events, Refugees, Work | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

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